The status-quo in the port city of Ashdod has been maintained throughout the years, but its foundations were undermined this week. An erotic theater company from Moscow, which held a semi-nude performance at the local Yad Lebanim memorial hall for fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers, managed to rattle the nerves of religious council members.
"We'll make sure that such performances will not be held here next time," one of the mayor's religious deputy vowed.
The event's producer, however, failed to understand what the commotion was all about. "Ashdod is the only place in Israel where people objected to the show," he said.
During the performance, which took place Sunday evening, the female dancers exposed the upper part of their bodies.
Some of the people in the audience, who were apparently shocked by the nudity, alerted the council members. Journalists were also alerted and managed to arrive at the hall just before the end of the show.
"It's unthinkable that an erotic show was held at the Yad Lebanim hall, which is the commemoration site for Ashdod's residents and for soldiers killed in Israel's wars," said opposition member Helen Gelber, who was one of the people's to receive the calls.
"It's disrespectful to the memory of the fallen, disrespectful to the bereaved families and definitely to the education of our youth," she added.
On the other hand, Avi Chen, the hall's events manager, expressed his amazement over the incident. "I don't understand what this is all about. They've created a provocation and heated up the atmosphere. It's a political issue."
The municipality's events manager, Iris Naftali, was also puzzled by Gelber's opposition and the "unnecessary attempts to heat up the atmosphere."
The event's producer was surprised by the negative responses, saying that "this is not a private place and it's not located in a religious neighborhood. There is a religious and non-religious audience. Rising up against the show is undemocratic. Whoever doesn’t want to, doesn't come here. No harm is caused to religion."
'Not everything is about democracy'
Acting Mayor Rabbi Amram Knafo (Shas) said that he had heard about the show only about three hours before it began, and that he was told by Avi Chen and Yigal Gamliel, CEO of the Municipal Company, that the nude part of the show would be cancelled.
"It turns out that the show ended 20 minutes earlier than scheduled and that the daring part of the show did not take place because of the nature of the site, which honors the fallen soldiers, and because we must maintain an as wide as possible consensus over what this place commemorates.
"Had I known in advance, the show would have been canceled. Next time will make sure that such events do not take place in this place," he said.
The city's ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor, Mordechai Lieberman, said that he had been approached by rabbis who asked him how such a show could take place in the city.
"After the holiday we'll raise the issue in a deputies' meeting, so that such things don't happen. We must maintain coexistence. Not everything is about democracy."
Yisrael Cohen, chairman of the Yad Lebanim governing council and of the bereaved parents' committee, said in response, "It turned out to be an exaggeration. It's more of a political thing because it was all very short, at least according to what people told me.
"But I do feel uncomfortable about it and I did rebuke them," he added. "Avi chen, the artistic manager, arrived at the show and canceled that part."