Israeli Arabs smash world record for largest 'Debke' folk dance
Event broadcast live on Al-Jazeera; 2,743 people danced for seven minutes holding hands in a human chain.
Israeli Arabs from across Israel danced their way hand in hand into the Guiness Book of World Records on Sunday after they held the largest and longest group performance of the "Debke" dance inside the walls of the Old City of Acre.
A record 2,743 people danced for seven minutes straight holding hands in a human chain that stretched down Hagana Street in Acre's famed Old City, smashing the previous record of 1,700 set in Toronto a few years ago.
The Debke is a six-step dance that is performed while holding hands in a line. For years it has been a mainstay of weddings and communal celebrations in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and even Turkey and Iraq.
The record-setting event, broadcast live for two hours on the cultural events channel of the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera, was the first time in history that any Israeli Arab has entered the Guinness Book.
Participants came from over 30 Debke clubs located all over Israel, with shuttle busses bringing them from as far as Rahat in the Negev and villages on the Lebanon border.
Asad Zarik, 73, came from his village of Ilabun, a "Debke powerhouse" in his words, where he said students come from all over the Galilee to study the dance. Zarik said that today the dance has become almost exclusively an elderly pastime, as most youths prefer to dance more modern steps.
Yihye Abu Juma'ah of Dir-al Assad, a coach for 12 Debke troupes, was in charge of organizing Sunday's record-breaking dance routine. He stated that the dance is over 500 years old and that to his knowledge there are no Jewish dancing troupes in Israel that perform the Debke, only distant variations on the Arab folk dance.
In keeping with Guinness regulations, two civilians were appointed to judge the competition, including popular Israel Radio Arabic-language host Iman al-Kassem Suleiman, who said there was no way he could miss the event, and that the dance is "an indelible part of the Arab culture, and if we can make the Guinness Book of World Records, it is proof that we are not only part of Israel, we are part of the world."
MK Abbas Zakur (United Arab List), a resident of Acre, also helped judge the event.