Normally, an S. Y. Agnon story performed for the stage by Habima, Israel’s national theater, would be fodder for events calendars and critics’ notebooks, but a recently announced performance is jumping out of Entertainment sections and entering papers as a News item itself. How did Habima get such widespread publicity? That’s easy: schedule the performance for an Israeli settlement.
As The Guardian reported yesterday, the move is a reaction to Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, who made moves this summer toward penalizing groups that refuse to perform in the West Bank. A statement from her office at the time described her policy as “incentivizing state-supported cultural institutions to perform in the periphery and Judea and Samaria, based on a view that culture is a basic right of all citizens.”
Of course, not all Israelis see matters like Regev does.
“By carrying out some kind of so-called pure cultural activity in these places, we are reinforcing the suffering of others, which has been continuing for years and years and is in fact preventing us from making peace,” performer and director Oded Kotler said.
Adding to the controversy is the specific settlement that was chosen for the performance, Kiryat Arba, which has a park named after Rabbi Meir Kahane and the gravesite of Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994. Every year on the anniversary of Goldstein’s massacre, supporters meet at his grave to celebrate him.
Haim Weiss, a literature professor at Ben Gurion University, posted on facebook that Kiryat Arba is “a city that symbolizes more than any other the violence and racism of the settlement enterprise.”
On Twitter, Minister Regev had a very different view of the situation. “This is what a vision becoming reality looks like. This is how a national theater should behave.”
— מירי רגב (@regev_miri) October 25, 2016