The Habima Theater in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s national theater company Habima is under pressure from left-wing academics and activists to boycott its November 10 performance in Kiryat Arba.
Ben-Gurion University lecturer Haim Weiss is among those who have called for Habima to pull out of the performance of the play, A Simple Story, based on a Shai Agnon novel.
In a post on his Facebook page Weiss called for a letter-writing campaign against such performances in West Bank settlements.
“The willingness of the theater, its employees and its players to take part in the normalization of the occupation, in which Kiryat Arba is transformed into just another city, is very troubling,” he wrote.
In another post he added that a Habima performance in Kiryat Arba was a symbolic show of legitimacy for the entire settlement movement.
Weiss added that since his initial post he has received many messages that cursed or verbally attacked him both personally and professionally, including ones that fell to the level of hate speech.
Habima said it has also received hate mail and letters protesting the performance.
One such letter said it was “disgraceful that the theater would perform in one of the most blatantly violent strongholds of the occupation.”
The letter suggested that either the actors refuse to perform or that the theater should offer half of the seats in the Kiryat Arba cultural center to area Palestinians along with simultaneous translation of the play into Arabic.
The theater has insisted that it has no plans to cave to pressure to cancel the performance.
“We’re against cultural boycotts,” a theater spokesman said, adding that it intended to provide Israelis with high quality cultural content irrespective of their place of residence.
Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev said: “I want to strengthen Habima for its steadfastness against criticism from the Left. I regret that there are those within our country who act like the are the last of the organization of thugs, BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement].”
Since entering her position, Regev said, she has promoted a policy of cultural justice that helps provide every Israeli citizen with access to the arts.
With Habima’s decisions to stage a performance in Kiryat Arba for the first time, she said, “I am happy to see this vision become reality.”
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