By Nour Abu Aisha
GAZA CITY, Palestine
Jenny Higgins, a 29-year-old Irish acrobat, stands above a five-meter cloth rope hung from the ceiling of a large room.
In a small school for teaching the circus arts in the northern Gaza Strip, she performs an elaborate trapeze act for a group of young Palestinian students.
As part of a cultural exchange project between Gaza and Ireland, six young men from the Gaza Strip are learning the arts of the circus from the talented Irish trainer.
"This is the seventh time I have come to the Gaza Strip after being invited here to teach the circus arts," Higgins told Anadolu Agency.
"I want to teach something to the people of Gaza that combines my circus talents with the civil-society work I do in Ireland," she said.
"Young Gazans are very enthusiastic to learn,” Higgins added. “After they complete the training, they are able to perform wonderfully; we’re proud to see them working now as professional circus artists.”
She now hopes to establish Gaza’s first girls-only school for the circus arts.
"Girls, too, want to learn,” she said. “When we get permission to do so, we’ll start bringing more female circus trainers to Gaza from Ireland.”
According to Higgins, the circus training also allows Gazan students to forget the painful reality of Israel’s decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip and its impact on everyday life in the coastal enclave.
“Learning the arts of the circus has been very satisfying,” said Mohamed al-Ejlah, a 21-year-old Gazan who recently finished the training.
One of 10 young men who have trained at Higgins’ school, he added: "We love performing circus acts for our fellow Gazans who never fail to show their appreciation for what we do.”
"We want to perfect our circus acts to inspire our brothers and sisters; to give them hope and remind them that -- despite our difficult circumstances -- there is still joy in this world," al-Ejlah said.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities and has led to one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.