Hundreds gathered on Monday at the Habima theater in Tel Aviv to demonstrate support for its actors who are boycotting performances in the West Bank city of Ariel.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said that, "the Israeli theater is not and will not be a puppet theater. It is a theater of people with independent thoughts and consciences."
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protests came after managers said that an artists’ boycott has only
fueled the public’s interest in the soon-to-be-opened cultural center in
the Ariel settlement, and will have a negligible effect on the schedule
for the center’s debut season.
“Our schedule for this year has
only eight theatrical shows, and out of these, only two shows include
actors who signed the letter vowing not to appear at the cultural
center,” Ariel Turgeman, the cultural center’s manager, told The Jerusalem Post
theatrical performances are only a small part of what we have planned
for the cultural center – we’ll also have children’s shows, concerts,
all types of events planned,” Turgeman said, adding that he felt the
significance of the boycott letter had been exaggerated in the media.
Saturday, following media reports that several major theater houses are
scheduled to perform at the center, 36 professional theater actors and
workers issued a letter
in which they vowed not to perform there because
it is in the West Bank.
Late Monday evening, authors Amos Oz,
David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua and Sami Michael, as well as Israel Prize
laureate, sculptor and architect Dani Caravan signed a petition
supporting the boycott, as did additional actors and directors.
letter was widely criticized
by members of the public and government
leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who at the
beginning of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting said, “The State of Israel
is under an attack of delegitimization by elements in the international
community. This attack includes attempts to enact economic, academic and
cultural boycotts. The last thing we need at this time is to be under
such an attack – I mean this attempt at a boycott – from within.”
Ariel Cultural Center is set to open on November 8, with productions
scheduled by the Beersheba Theater, the Cameri Theater, the Habima
National Theater and Jerusalem’s Khan Theater.
It has taken more
than 20 years to build the cultural center because of recurrent problems
with funding. It will include a main theater with an upper mezzanine
and seating for 530 people, and a smaller auditorium with seating for
The center’s secretary, Jenny Simon, a 20-year resident of
Ariel originally from the US, said the boycott letter has had “the
reverse effect from what they [the authors] wanted.”
“We saw the
impact of this letter in the petitions of support for us signed by
people from all over the country, and the fact that the phones have not
stopped ringing since yesterday. People from outside of Ariel, from Kfar
Saba, Petah Tikva and other places, are calling and ordering tickets,
saying they’ll make a point of coming to see shows in Ariel instead of
their own cities.”
Simon said the center will play an important
social and cultural role for residents of Ariel and others living
outside the city, who would otherwise have to travel to Tel Aviv, Petah
Tikva or elsewhere to enjoy such cultural offerings.
that Simon said callers and residents expressed was echoed by locals in
Ariel on Monday, including kiosk owner Avi Levy.
Ariel thought the same thing of the letter: They’re treating us like
we’re second-rate citizens. They need to remember that 90 percent of the
soldiers from Ariel serve in combat units and give their all to this
country,” Levy said.
If he had his way, “those actors would be
kicked out of the actors’ collective,” a sentiment that was shared by
Uzi, a patron of the kiosk and a resident of Ariel.
“I have a
membership in the Cameri Theater, which I may cancel now,” Uzi said.
“Maybe they [the actors who wrote the letter] should open a branch of
the Cameri in Nablus if that’s what they want.”
In Tel Aviv on
Monday evening, hundreds of people came to a demonstration organized by
Peace Now to show support for the actors’ boycott. Those in attendance
at the rally outside the Habima National Theater included MKs Haim Oron
and Nitzan Horovitz of Meretz, and Dov Henin of Hadash.
general-secretary Yariv Oppenheimer said the rally “wasn’t only sending
a message about the occupation, but also about democracy. These actors
have the right to exercise their own free will and not perform somewhere
they don’t want to.”
When asked to respond to critics who have
said that art and culture shouldn’t be mixed with politics, Oppenheimer
said, “Of course they mix, and culture and art have a role to play in
speaking about issues of values and morals.”
public outcry and threats to cancel theater memberships, several of the
actors who signed the letter – Dror Keren, Irit Kaplan, Alon Dahan,
Olah Shor and Micha Slackter – rescinded their support for the boycott.
a letter sent to the management of the Cameri Theater on Sunday, Keren
said, “I never signed a document calling for a boycott against anyone,
and I will never do such a thing.”