July 5, 2016


Circus performers stage vigil for imprisoned Palestinian clown in Tel Aviv


Palestinian and Israeli performers set up shop in a central Tel Aviv pedestrian promenade to demand the release of Mohammed Abu Sakha, a Palestinian clown Israel is imprisoning without charge or trial.


Circus performers from the West Bank city of Nablus and jugglers from Israeli staged a protest performance in central Tel Aviv Tuesday calling on Israeli authorities to release Mohammed Abu Sakha, a Palestinian clown who has been imprisoned by Israel for seven months, much of which in administrative detention — a draconian tool Israel uses to hold Palestinians without charge or trial.


The performance, which Amnesty International helped organize, was held at Tel Aviv’s weekly artists market on Nahalat Binyamin Street. The central component of the performance was small cage containing a clown. Around him, the jugglers juggled and circus performers put on acrobatic maneuvers.


Israeli forces arrested Abu Sakha last December at the Za’atara checkpoint while on his way to visit his parents in the West Bank city of Jenin. Shortly thereafter, he was placed in administrative detention. In June, his administrative detention order was renewed for another six months. Like all Palestinian administrative detainees, of whom there are over 700 at the moment, Abu Sakha does not know of what he is accused and has no opportunity to defend himself against the accusations.


Until his arrest, Abu Sakha operated the Palestinian Circus School in the West Bank, teaching circus performance to Palestinian children. Abu Sakha started learning the art of circus nine years ago, when he was 14 years old, and since then, it has become his entire life.


He lives near the circus and spends his entire day working there. He is also busy writing his book there about how to teach therapy for special needs children through the art of circus. His friends say that children that didn’t know how to take a step when they met him can now walk thanks to him.


The Palestinian circus is one of the rare pearls found in the painful reality of life under occupation. In addition to the circus shows, which attract visitors from around the world, they also operate a circus school in which 340 children from the area of Ramallah and Bir Zeit participate, among them 40 special needs children. For these kids, the circus is not only a refuse from the daily hardships, but also therapy.