Show goes on for Israelis at Edinburgh festival

Small anti-Israel protests have greeted artists at the annual music and threater gathering.

August 11, 2017 00:50
3 minute read.
Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protestors at the Shalom Festival in Scotland

Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian protestors at the Shalom Festival in Scotland. (photo credit: RESERVISTS ON DUTY)


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This time, they were ready.

Three years after a large, raucous anti-Israel protest effectively ran them out of town, the Incubator Theater returned to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this week.

But it didn’t come alone.

The group appeared starting Tuesday as part of the International Shalom Festival, which provided a framework, and they even brought with them activists from the Reservists on Duty group to provide backup and support.

And when the three-day Shalom Festival kicked off, there were a couple of dozen protesters outside, but the artists knew they weren’t going to be intimidated.

“There have been some demonstrators outside,” said Hadar Galron, the artistic director of the Shalom Festival.

“But I think on the whole the police outside have been almost as much as the amount of demonstrators,” she said.

And in addition to the police, four activists from Reservists on Duty, an NGO that works to counter BDS efforts, were on hand.

“This is what we do,” said Jonathan Elkhoury, a Lebanese Christian who works with the group and flew to Scotland to offer support.

“If we have any Israelis or any Jews or pro-Israelis who are having events and people who are trying to shut down their events, we’re going to be there to support them, and to make them feel like they have support,” he said.

Elkhoury, who fled from Lebanon to Israel in 2001 at age nine, said a couple dozen protesters gathered the first day of the festival with loud shouts and megaphones.

Reservists on Duty didn’t try to shut them down, said Elkhoury, “because we’re not like that.”

Instead, he said, “we came there with our Israeli flags...

to show a bit of support to the festival and to make a presence that we are there, that we are not silenced, that we will not be afraid to talk anymore.”

Amit Deri, the executive director of Reservists on Duty, said they sent a delegation of four people to the festival a couple days before it began, “to get ready.”

Deri said the group planned for every possible outcome, since “this time we didn’t want them to succeed in canceling the shows.”

Alongside The City, the play which was canceled in 2014, the Shalom Festival screened several films, brought over a variety of speakers and have a gala concert planned for Thursday night – the final event of the festival – featuring Ethiopian-Israeli singer Meski Shibru and the band Jamaya.

Galron said Thursday morning that they hadn’t seen a huge turnout on Tuesday and Wednesday, though they hope the Thursday evening gala will bring the biggest numbers.

“We’re not in the center” of the Fringe Festival’s activities, she said.

“That was one of the prices we had to pay for all this security.”

She said people have come from London and Manchester and even farther away to offer support, and things have been running smoothly.

“We are far from where we were last year,” she added.

“Last year there were hundreds of people outside shouting very horrible things at us.”

But this year, she said, she thinks many were deterred by the public message of support from the Scottish government, and the full-hearted support of the police and city council.

“We invited the protesters in but they didn’t want to come in,” she said.

The police officers, on the other hand, have been taking turns coming in to see the show, said Galron.

“It’s really a very very strong and important message,” she said. “And it really changes people’s way of thinking of Israel.”

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