Back Workshops for Arab and Jewish women
Being a member of the Hand in Hand community in Jaffa, whose “mission is to build partnership and equality between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel”, Godder decided to connect her artistic endeavors to
the community in which she lives and to promote direct exchange between Arab Palestinian women and Jewish women, using dance and movement in her studio.
Interested in opening up her work and research, she invited the mothers of the Hand in Hand community in Jaffa, to join a workshop titled Practicing Empathy., which is the name of a larger research project she has been involved in since 2019. Practicing Empathy involves community meetings, workshops and performances that explore the notion of empathy through a variety of perspectives and approaches, attempting to look at what opens us up emotionally. What makes us identify and connect with others, as well as with ourselves? And how can we create new practices, rituals, songs, and choreographies, which may open up our ability to take in complexities without fear and distrust?
The workshop for the mothers of the Arab-Jewish community in Jaffa was led by company members: Or Ashkenazy, Ortal Atsbaha, Carmel Ben-Asher, Tamar Kish, Ari Teperberg and Nir Vidan. Each of the performers brought their own emotional and conceptual take on empathy, sharing some of the practices and approaches which later became the basis for the works: Practicing Empathy#1, and Practicing Empathy #2by2. Alongside, the workshop participants were also invited to share their own perceptions of empathy, and to translate these into actual non-verbal physical practices. In the workshop, there was a process of discovering, developing and researching physical and emotional possibilities of finding comforting connections and exchanges of intimacy, in an attempt to develop new rituals, through which to communicate. The workshop created an exchange between the knowledge and backgrounds of the participants and the process that the company was undertaking at the time in rehearsals. All of this developed a kind of cross-pollination of ideas and allowed for more life experiences to be expressed and discovered around the theme of empathy.
Following the strong impact and the sense of necessity that was present in the Practicing Empathy workshop, for the Arab-Jewish mothers, a new workshop initiative was undertaken, once again with the partnership of Hand in Hand, titled Na’ot مع بعض ( Moving Together). This workshop which took place from March to June 2021 was led both in Arabic and Hebrew, by a team of Arab Palestinian and Jewish women: Nur Garabli (Jaffa), Yasmeen Godder (Jaffa), Sahar Damoni (Shfar’am) and Anat Vaadia (Tel-Aviv). The weekly meetings we co-led, creating a special mix between different practices of teaching, of the languages used and of approaches to the body which included: Palestinian Dabke, Contemporary Dance, Improvisation and experiential anatomy. The exposure to these different practices, which also represent the varying cultural and artistic backgrounds of both teachers and participants, allowed to create a sense of connection, recognition and openness around themes of identity, womanhood and partnership. The second Na’ot مع بعض ( Moving Together) workshop opened in October 2022 extending to a nine-month program with the support of the Tel-Aviv Foundation, Hand in Hand, Tel-Aviv and the Mandel Cultural Foundation and Tel-Aviv-Yaffo Municipality. Nur Garabli became the co-artistic director together with Yasmeen Godder integrating a bilingual pedagogical approach with a team of Jewish-Arab co-teachers leading each lesson. Over the past two years, the workshop has grown from a small pilot of 12 participants with a few teachers, to a 9-month, year-long program with thirty Arab and Jewish participants, and 10 Arab and Jewish facilitators from diverse movement practices, including: Dabke (traditional Palestinian dance), contemporary dance, belly dance, African dance, release technique and improvisation. The workshop enables participants to engage together in a shared experience through movement, fostering an atmosphere of cultural exchange, receptivity, trust, and community, which bridge cultural divides.
Movement and dance offer an innate tool for communication – overcoming language barriers, and facilitating new opportunities for verbal and nonverbal dialogue. However, the medium is vastly underused in the shared society field. The Naot Ma Ba’ad Project is one of the only initiatives capitalizing on the distinct capacity of movement and dance as a tool for strengthening Jewish-Arab relations. An internal evaluation of the program, conducted in 2021, pointed to the program’s potential to quickly foster relationships, cultivate a sense of community and belonging, and generate deep discourse.
The Naot project is also distinct in its focus on women, providing a space where women can more easily open up, explore their physical potential, and cultivate their own voices. Among the women participants, the project succeeds in bringing together an equal number of Jewish and Arab participants, as well as a diverse spectrum of Jews and Arabs: Mizrachi, Ashkenazi, and Ethiopian Jews, Muslims, Christians, and participants ranging in age from young women, to mothers, to grandmothers – diversity and representation that is often lacking in traditional dialogue programs. The project carries this emphasis on representation and equity into all elements of the program, ensuring that the program content is bilingual – Hebrew-Arabic – and multicultural.
Lastly, this program is distinct in its focus on Jaffa – a mixed city that is experiencing significant gentrification and has seen a sharp increase in tensions, polarization, and violence over the past year, especially during the escalation events in May 2021 in Israel. The current socio-political situation highlights the need for creative approaches to strengthen Jewish-Arb relationships in the Jaffa community, which can bring together participants who might not necessarily join traditional dialogue frameworks.
For more about the Na’ot Ma’Ba’ad Festival