Gov't freezing subsidized cultural events on Shabbat

The initiative behind the subsidized events included a special budget to make them accessible for those who observe Shabbat.

Miki Zohar (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Miki Zohar
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

The Culture Ministry, headed by Likud member Miki Zohar, has frozen subsidized projects that take place on Shabbat, including the "Israeli Shabbat" initiative.

The Israeli Shabbat initiative provides free entry into a number of heritage sites, museums and cultural events around the country on Fridays and Saturdays. The initiative was launched in March 2021 under then culture minister Chili Trooper.

A culture coordinator in a regional council in the periphery told the independent Hamakom news site that she suddenly received a message on Thursday stating "according to the instructions of the Culture Minister, subsidized activities may not be conducted as part of the ["Spirit of Culture"] series starting from 5 p.m. on Friday until an hour after Shabbat ends."

The Spirit of Culture series is a subsidized series of cultural events in the periphery conducted by the Israeli Association of Community Centers.

Under the coalition agreements, the Israeli Association of Community Centers was transferred to the Interior Ministry, which Shas head Arye Deri was set to head until he was disqualified by the High Court of Justice last week.

Robert Indiana's Love sculpture at the entrance of the Israel Museum (credit: TALMORYAIR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Robert Indiana's Love sculpture at the entrance of the Israel Museum (credit: TALMORYAIR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The culture coordinator told Hamakom that she has "no choice" but to follow the order as the programs are 90% funded by the subsidies and cannot continue without them.

The Culture Ministry has also ordered the cancelling of the Israeli Shabbat initiative for "rethinking," according to the report.

Culture Ministry 'looking into the issue'

The Israeli Association of Community Centers told Hamakom that the association "was selected in a tender process to operate the 'Spirit of Culture' project of the Culture Ministry. Regarding your question and any question on the subject, please contact the Culture Ministry."

Zohar announced on Sunday evening that he had instructed his office to examine the subsidized programs conducted on Shabbat and had frozen them in the meantime.

"The Shabbat observant public in Israel will not be shot down during my shift," tweeted Zohar, stating that the Israeli Shabbat initiative and similar projects "discriminated" against those who observe Shabbat.

The minister added that programs that fund events on Shabbat are "not consistent with [his] policy and maintaining the status quo."

Trooper expressed concerns about the freezing of the Israeli Shabbat initiative, writing on Facebook on Sunday that "those who value heritage and culture should make it accessible to all of Israeli society."

"The project allows anyone and everyone, in the center and the periphery, to consume culture and connect to the heritage without financial obstacles and each and every one according to their faith," added Trooper. "It should be noted that a special budget was set aside for adjustments that would also allow Shabbat observers to enter the heritage sites without violating Shabbat. Everyone could come through the gates of cultural and heritage sites and activities. How sad that there are those who are now closing the gate."

The Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel announced on Thursday that the Israeli Shabbat initiative would end operations on January 31 in order to "organize and prepare for 2023."