Cancel Culture - How coronavirus is affecting the arts scene in Israel

“If the virus isn’t contained in the next two months, it could have a long-term negative impact on the music scene in Israel, and the arts landscape in general,” said a music industry insider.

A young woman wears a costume as a reference to coronavirus during the Jewish holiday of Purim in Ashkelon March 8, 2020  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A young woman wears a costume as a reference to coronavirus during the Jewish holiday of Purim in Ashkelon March 8, 2020
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The cultural scene in Israel looks to be another casualty of the novel coronavirus. But how long the restrictions last and what the long-term effect of the virus on the arts' scene will remain to be seen.
The Health Ministry ’s decree on March 4 banning all gatherings of more than 5,000 people to stop the spread of the virus certainly will have a chilling effect on the spring concert season, and possibly the summer events, if the ban stays in effect.
“If the virus isn’t contained in the next two months, it could have a long-term negative impact on the music scene in Israel and the arts landscape in general,” said a source who follows the music industry closely.
Like others interviewed for this article, he did not want to be quoted by name, partly because all anyone can do at this point is speculate.
“Canceled shows might be hard to rebook because we’ll be competing with other markets, although we pay competitively,” the source said. “Some shows will be rescheduled and some won’t.”
Concerts by local artists already have been canceled and postponed. On Thursday, appearances by Nathan Goshen and Ishay Ribo at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, which seats about 10,000, were postponed until May.
Another large-scale postponement was of an event scheduled for March 8 at the same auditorium for municipality workers from across the country, which was to feature 2018 Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, Rita, Sarit Haddad, Eden Ben Zaken and many others.
One of the most-anticipated Purim events in the gay community, DJ Ofer Nissim’s party at Bitan 1 in Tel Aviv, was postponed until early April.
Shows by foreign artists are likely to face cancellations as well, both because of the restrictions on large gatherings and because the artists may not be able to enter the country. Currently, travelers from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland are not allowed to enter Israel, as well as from seven Asian countries, including China and Japan. There are conflicting reports as to whether American tourists will be continue to be allowed into the country, as the numbers of those infected continue to rise in the US.
The pandemic is unlikely to be resolved in time for Eurovision 2020, which begins on May 11. The Israeli public broadcasting authority, KAN, canceled its delegation’s participation in a planning event ahead of the festival. Dutch broadcaster NPO said Eurovision organizers were consulting with health experts to make the event safe during the outbreak.
Spring and summer concerts scheduled in Tel Aviv include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on June 17, Pixies on July 14 and Celine Dion in early August.
In spite of the mounting crisis, British rocker Morrissey, formerly of the Smiths, just announced two concert dates in May, at the Zappa Shuni Amphitheater and on the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. The shows will seat fewer than 5,000 spectators.
Morrissey has performed in Israel frequently and “always says something controversial and always puts on a good show,” said the music industry insider.  Morrissey posed for a promotional photo in front of a white wall on which the words “You’ll be fine” are spray-painted in blue.
But not everyone is so laid-back about the current situation. The Israel Association of Musical Performing Arts Promoters sent a letter to Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni, requesting compensation for the economic damage due to the cancellations last week, Ynet reported.
The virus will affect the film industry as well. The 17th French Film Festival, which is scheduled to open at cinematheques around the country on March 18, will go forward as planned, but foreign guests will not be able to attend. Israeli filmmakers Shira Geffen, Etgar Keret and Keren Ben Rafael, who have worked on French co-productions, will be present.
The large Israeli film festivals – Docaviv, the Tel Aviv documentary film festival, in May; the Jerusalem Film Festival in July; the Haifa International Film Festival in the fall – are far enough in the future that it is too early for them to make changes.
The Jerusalem Film Festival’s opening definitely would be affected if the current guidelines are still in place, since its opening event is a screening at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater that seats more than 5,000. In 2014, the opening ceremony was canceled due to the prohibition on large gatherings during the Gaza war.
But the local festivals are only part of the story. Israelis in the film industry are worried about what will happen with key international film festivals that are traditionally launching pads for Israeli movies, particularly the Tribeca Film Festival in April in New York and the Cannes Film Festival in May.
One filmmaker who found out her latest film would be screened at one of these festivals was worried the event would be canceled.
“Maybe they could just stream the whole festival?” she mused. “That would make sense because a lot of us [Israeli filmmakers] are hoping to sell our movies to streaming services instead of traditional theatrical distribution.”
While so much is uncertain right now, one thing is clear, said a Tel Aviv music professional: “The virus will create a huge logistical nightmare for all.”