Where have all the artists gone?

A forum on culture and economy gets heated at the Caesaria Conference.

Pines 88 (photo credit: )
Pines 88
(photo credit: )
'They treat us like parasites , " exclaimed veteran Israeli actor Yoram Hattab. "As if we were spoiled brats!" Hattab's anger was directed at the government, and he wasn't alone. Participants in the Caesaria Conference's panel on "Economy and Culture," who gathered Tuesday to debate the government's role in subsidizing and supporting the arts, frequently criticized the state for its cultural budget allocations - or lack thereof. "Israeli artists are fleeing the country," said c o m p o s e r / c o n d u c t o r Noam Sherif. "Where is Daniel Barenboim? Where is Itzhak Perlman? We need to subsidize culture." "There's no doubt," said Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines, whose new portfolio includes culture and sport, "that it's impossible to foster culture without a budget for culture." He noted, however, that culture is the one budget that cannot be diverted or cut for the military. Paz-Pines also said that Israelis - unlike Americans - are not able to deduct charitable contributions from their taxes, and therefore have less of an incentive to do so, placing a greater burden of sponsorship on the state. Channel Two executive Uri Shinar argued that "the government has to take care of the institutions that the existing market can not cover." Both Shinar and Erel Margalit, director of the venture capital firm JVP, said that the government focuses its budget on mainstream culture and large institutions, and should allocate more resources to the periphery. Paz-Pines agreed that the periphery of Israeli society suffers most from a lack of funds. "Big names like Rita and Shlomo Artzi don't need our help," he said. "They have their audiences." He added that he was "surprised by the lack of budget for non-Hebrew endeavors - what about the [Israeli] Arabs? What about the Druze? They need more resources." "We need a theater for every type of audience," said Tzippi Pines, the artistic director of Tel Aviv's Beit Lessin Theater. "The bottom line," she said, "is that we simply need more money."