Hassidic Jews' ‘ritual Talmudic dance’ in Jordanian airport stirs massive controversy

A group of dancing Hassidic Jews singing wedding songs in Queen Alia International Airport arouse anger on Jordanian social media and in the government.

March 25, 2015 13:33
3 minute read.

Hassidic Jews' dance in Jordanian airport

Hassidic Jews' dance in Jordanian airport


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A group of Israeli Hassidim are being accused of carrying out a “ritual Talmudic dance” on Tuesday morning while waiting to board their plane in Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.

What was in fact a traditional Jewish circle dance, accompanied by guitar music and Hebrew singing, has morphed into a social media controversy in Jordan, and was considered so offensive to Jordanians that it had to be denounced in the Jordanian parliament.

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In the viral video, a group of eight men, identifiable as Breslev Hassidim by their attire, are singing a Hebrew song that celebrates marriage. However, some Jordanian media has misread the dance as a “ritual Talmudic dance” meant as a provocation.

One Jordanian tweeter, who according to his Twitter profile is a doctor in the Health Ministry, wrote that: “He who was sitting in the airport and saw the dance and wasn’t provoked is a pig and more piglike then the Jews themselves.”
The editor- in-chief of the Hamas media outlet Siraj Media tweeted that the “airport dance”--the hashtag being used on social media in Arabic-- “isn’t the problem, but rather the acceptance of Israel as a reality” is the issue.
One woman jokingly wrote “A popular call to dance the Dabkeh at OIAA.” (Dabkeh is a traditional Middle Eastern circle.)
On Tuesday, according to The Jordanian Times, Jordanian MP’s discussed the “ritual dance” video during a Lower House session. MPs Yihya Saud, Bassam Btoush and Tarek Khoury reportedly criticized Amman’s “inaction” over the “provocative” dance performed by “Zionist Israelis” at the airport. The MPs argued that Jordanians would never be allowed to do such an act in Israel.

The Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Majali sought to allay fears, saying that the Israelis’ dance at QAIA did not exceed five minutes, and that airport security immediately took the dancing Israelis to the plane they were taking.

In an article for Al Jazeera Arabic--in which the dance is referred to as a “ritual dance”--the management for QAIA presented a different picture from the press and the Jordanian MP’s who spoke about the incident. The Director of Media and Communication at the airport, Zahiya al-Na’asan, explained that "the video was very short and did not arouse anger to those present [at the time]."

She added that "the management of the airport did not receive a single complaint from any passenger about the incident that took place.” Na’asan also denied that the dance was "an expression of a Jewish religious ritual."

Jordanian-Israeli Relations

Jordan and Israel signed a peace agreement in 1994. However, the Jewish State remains unpopular among the majority of Jordanians, a large number of whom are of Palestinian descent.

Yet relations between the two governments remain healthy. In late February, they agreed to carry out the “Red-Dead” project, which will supply water for both Israelis and Jordanians and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. Israeli Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom, who went to Amman to sign the agreement, called it “the most significant agreement since the peace treaty with Jordan.”

Dov Lieber is an intelligence analyst with the Levantine Group. You can find him on twitter: @Dovlieber

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