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Majd Hajjaj-Rimawi, circus performer

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 29.03.2009:

Circus & Grandma

By Majd Youssef Hajjaj-Rimawi

Has your grandmother ever criticized the way you dress, talk, or the things you like doing? Don’t we all love our grandmothers though? I visit my lovely grandmas every once in a while, but it always turns out to be not enough! Anyway, I am not writing here today to talk about grandmothers, but I remember how my grandma once said, “How are you going to graduate from university, get a job and become a businesswoman and still jump like monkeys at the circus?” I am not a monkey grandma, circus is something I enjoy doing, just like I do theatre and debka.

Many people just like you grandma, have been wondering and asking, “CIRCUS…? What are you doing in the CIRCUS? Are there lions and elephants? Does it look anything like what we see on TV…?” Just as grandma says, I am a young Palestinian Arab girl, who has just graduated from university, about to get a job and willing to enjoy life and make a change, but of course there are limitations imposed by society and traditions. I have always been fond of the arts; I have performed in many theatrical plays and dance performances, and two and a half years ago ago, I joined the Palestinian Circus School, where I have been performing and sometimes training children in Palestine and going on circus tours abroad. I remember the look on your face grandma and on my parents’ faces while you stood up there among the audience after each show applauding in joy and pride!

I would like to share something with you today. Our Circus School in Palestine is different from any other Circus in the world, because it is not about how high you jump or how many balls you juggle with, it is about the challenges and burdens to do all that, it is about the reason that causes you to jump that high and reach somewhere beyond a checkpoint and higher than the Wall! It is about the message we are trying to communicate to the whole world: “The further you take my rights away, the faster I will run… the higher you build your barriers, the taller I become!” Furthermore, I am telling you that Palestine exists and I do exist, I refuse to feel like I got slapped on the face when I tell a foreigner that I come from Palestine and he simply thinks I mean “Pakistine…Pakistan?” while he knows Israel very well! I refuse that my country is simply erased off the map. If only you knew grandma how much we have touched people abroad with the messages we carry from the Holy Land, in addition to all the fun we have as a group when we travel and cross borders in the car with ease, while we are considered illegal in our own country when we attempt to reach the city in which we were born just about 20 kilometres away!

As a Palestinian girl, I come from a supportive family who has always stood by me and encouraged me to raise my voice and express the injustice I feel in my own society and country. I know I sometimes stay out for long hours in circus trainings. My parents scold me for not doing my duties at home, but they know how much it means to me when I try so hard to finally achieve what I have been working on. They get scared just as I do when I am on three-metre-high stilts, but still talk about it to their friends as if I were a heroine. And finally I forget all the pain when I see the smiles on my parents’ faces and on the faces of the children and their parents during circus training or after a show in a village or a refugee camp, and also on your face grandma. You have watched me and supported me every time I fell when I was a child making my first steps – the circus made me feel like a kid once again in my life when I made my first steps on the stilts.

I know there are many grandmothers out there who think the same way and have difficulties accepting anything just because it is new, and especially because it is done by a girl like me. So today I tell you how proud I am to be a Palestinian girl, able to make a change through this kind of art that reaches out to the world and that is perceived as a civilized method to communicate a message while still taking into consideration our culture and conservative society and adapting to it. Through the circus, I can help make children prove they can do the impossible, overcome the difficulties and get up stronger and more determined every time they fall. I realize that now you understand why I love the circus Grandma, I love you too!

Majd Youssef Hajjaj-Rimawi is a 21-year old Palestinian from Beit Rima living in Ramallah. She recently obtained her B.A. from Birzeit University with a major in finance and a minor in business administration. Active and sociable, she loves arts and music and does circus, theatre, basketball and debka. She has a twin-sister who shares most of her activities and memories, and a supportive family who made her the person she is today. Majd can be reached at

This Week in Palestine, March 2009

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