Members of Gaza Circus practice juggling with clubs and rings in the northern Gaza Strip April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa(reuters_tickers)
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - The circus doesn't come to town anymore in the Gaza Strip, so Palestinians have created one of their own to try to bring some joy to the conflict zone.
It is not the greatest show on earth - there's no Big Top, flying trapeze or animals. But about a dozen adults and 30 children training to be clowns, jugglers and stilt-walkers are winning smiles in public performances.
The Gaza Circus School is the brainchild of Majed Kalluob, a 24-year-old journalist with a penchant for theatre and some tutelage from Belgian circus artists who visited Gaza in 2011.
"We perform in kindergartens, in schools, at areas near the border, in streets and everywhere people call us to," he said.
Wearing colourful track suits, the group trains in a garage. Jugglers practice with balls, clubs and rings, while others climb ropes or rode tiny bicycles. Some children do gymnastics, jumping over each other's shoulders.
"We offer training for free because we want to teach the younger generation something new, we want to teach them how to act and be happy," Kalluob said.
Four years ago, the Egyptian National Circus performed in Gaza. But the border with Egypt, whose government is at odds with the enclave's Hamas Islamist rulers, is now largely closed, and Israel maintains tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods through its frontier with the territory.
Kalloub's troupe, which also performs in hospital wards, receives some funds, equipment and mentoring from circus schools in Spain, the World Vision Organisation, Italy and in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. But travel restrictions have prevented him and other colleagues from going to Spain for training.
"My ambition is to create the first circus of Gaza in accordance to the international standards. I dream of having a permanent tent to hold the shows every week," he said.
Ibrahim Omar, a 16-year-old member of the circus, said the world should know that Gaza has "children with many talents" that are hidden in the shadow of the conflict with Israel
"Circus has become part of our life, just like study and other daily routine," he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem)