(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev issued a call on Wednesday for the public to air its views on new ministry policies.
Regev opened the issue of ministerial support for performing arts to the general public, asking them to help reexamine and formulate the ministry’s funding policies. She included all forms of performing arts in the discussion, including theater, fringe, music, and dance.
In every one of those fields, a discussion will be held surrounding budget needs, conditions for receiving ministry support, the criteria for the distribution of funds between different institutions, and any other relevant issue.
“The diverse human fabric that makes up Israeli society has changed over the years, and we must take care to ensure that the budget allocation method adjusts itself for Israel of 2015,” said Regev in her statement on Wednesday.
“The criteria for support that exist today, according to which money is divided among cultural institutions in the country, have accompanied the ministry’s work for many long years, and I find it necessary to open the discussion to the general public, to listen to the important insights that come from within, and to formulate new policies accordingly,” she concluded.
The public is invited to submit their views in writing to the ministry over the course of the next four weeks. The written material will be discussed during committee meetings, led by Dr. Haim Perluk, chairman of the Israel Arts and Culture Council.
Meanwhile, the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss the issue of lack of funding for culture in the Arab sector.
In a discussion initiated by MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) and head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), both raised the fact that the Arab sector, representing some 20 percent of the general population, receives only 3% of the culture budget.
Frej also pointed to the fact that the culture budget is already small in comparison to OECD and European countries, where the budgets are between one to two percent of the total budget, in comparison to the meager 0.18% of the total budget allotted to culture in Israel.
Out of NIS 770 million in the culture budget set aside for cultural centers, only some NIS 14 million a year are allotted to the Arab sector, translating to about seven shekels a year per Arab citizen, in comparison to some NIS 80 a year per Jewish citizen, said Frej.
“As an Israeli citizen, when I see these numbers I am embarrassed. The principle of equality that everyone talks about, when it comes to our sector, it disappears.
It disappears,” he said.
“Museums – zero, art schools – zero, cinematheques – zero, it all adds up to a big pile of zeros,” added Odeh, referring to the number of cultural centers and activities available in Arab villages across the country.
Odeh demanded that immediate action be taken to raise the allotted budget for the Arab sector to 20%, a number that he said would proportionately reflect society.
Orly Froman, director-general of the Culture and Sports Ministry, also addressed the committee, disputing some of the numbers presented by the MKs but agreeing with the underlying problem of lack of cultural infrastructure and accessibility in the Arab sector.
Froman stated that strengthening culture and sports in the Arab sector is one of the four main objectives of the ministry and spoke of the need for a roundtable discussion that would include other necessary parties, such as representatives from the Housing Ministry, local authorities, the Interior Ministry, and more.
MK Ya’acov Margi (Shas), head of the committee, called the culture budget “meager” and called on the Culture and Sports Ministry to increase the budget for the Arab sector, in an effort to reach 20% of the overall culture budget, and to work towards increasing the culture budget as a whole.
Margi also called for an inter-ministerial committee to be set up to work towards building cultural infrastructure in the Arab sector, to look into funding for Arab cultural centers in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, and to investigate the possibility of opening an arts school in the Arab sector.