Arabesque is a club for students from the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It Was established in 1996, with the goal of providing a meeting place where people could share the tastes and voices of the cultural mosaic of our region. The Club's programs are decided upon by the department's student body, with the assistance of the academic and administrative staff.
During the 1999-2000 academic year, the following activities took place at Arabesque:
An appearance by Israeli Arab singer Amal Morkus.
A screening of the film "Samir", which deals with the life of the Israeli author Sami Michael and his friendship with the author the late Emil Habibi. A discussion with the filmmakers followed.
A meeting with Salim Nassib, author of Umm, a book about the life of the famous Egyptian singer Umm Kholtoum.
The end of the last academic year was celebrated by a "Not for Ladies Only" meeting, during which the audience was treated to Dr. Rachel Milshetein's explanation on and personal demonstration of the chrms of Eastern Dance.
At Arabesque, this academic year (2001) was opened with the folklore performance on the Silk Road, by Tzila Zanbar-Tzur and shir Sofer.
In January, as an introduction to the departmental trip to Andalusia, the club organized a lecture on Flamenco dance, followed by a performance by the well-know dancer Neta Sheizaf.
The next activities were concluded by a jeep trip to Ottoman sites in the Negev.
The end of the academic year the Arabesque Club celebrate with an evening performance by the "Bustan Avraham".
The activities at the year 2001-2002
Last December, the Club held a more than delectable iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar when it is believed that divine revelation was sent down from heaven to the Prophet Muhammad in order to guide mankind and be a source of salvation. The festive dinner was well attended; there was barely standing-room in the large lecture hall. Students, faculty members, and university administrators enjoyed tasting from a wide variety of Middle Eastern dishes-from Moroccan couscous to Yemenite melawwah to Bedouin mansaf. However, the highlight of the evening was Mahmud Sarries, an engineer student, who entertained the diners with his wonderful guitar playing of Arabic melodies.
The club also takes its activities outside the campus. Mazen Abu-Hamed, a second-year student in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, invited his classmates to his home in Derejat, an unrecognized Bedouin settlement. The visit coincided with Lag Baomer (literally the thirty-third day of the omer, the counting between the Jewish Passover and the harvest festival of Shavuot). Then, bonfires are traditionally lit as a symbol against tyranny. Mazen's father, Younis Abu-Hamed, led the students on a very personal tour of his community. He showed us the caves which were once his home as well as those wells which used to be the only sources of water. His words moved us all: "It is in these places I spent my childhood, the beautiful days and memories which cannot be erased. Memories will remain forever." But Mazen's father didn't dwell on the past. On the contrary, following the tour, he exhibited true Bedouin hospitality and generosity, and invited us to a wonderful feast. Then, the Jewish students among us built a bonfire, and we all sang Hebrew and Arab songs. The visit ended on a high note as members of Mazen's family drummed on the darbooka and invited the students to dance with them.
Both of these activities provide not only an outlet from studies, but also a means to appreciate the different customs and traditions within the immediate region. The Arabesque Culture Club thanks both the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Chaim Herzog Center for support of its activities.