A long line of actors and artists from all fields of the theater industry sent a letter to the boards of Israel's repertory theaters announcing they will refuse to perform in the new culture auditorium in Ariel, which is located outside the Green Line. It should be noted that tickets have already been sold to productions that include all of Israel's theaters.
The letter, addressed to the boards of the Cameri, Habima, Beit Lessin, Khan and the Haifa and Beersheba theatres, read: "We wish to express our disgust with the theater's board's plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel. The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line."
On Wednesday, the Ometz Lesarev (courage to refuse) organization sent a letter to the theaters' boards and actors requesting they refrain from performing in Ariel. In response, the city's mayor, Ron Nachman said, "Culture has nothing to do with politics. If the actors and artists want to deal with politics, let them go to the Knesset. The vileness, baseness and hypocrisy of those who work in culture and call on a boycott of us, is intolerable."
But it seems many in the industry gave in to the organization's calls, and Friday's letter included the signatures of dozens of prominent people in the theater business.
Dramaturgist Vardit Shalfi, one of the letter's initiators, told Ynet on Friday, "Ariel is not a legitimate community, and as such, is against international law and international treaties that the State of Israel has signed. This means anyone performing there would be considered a criminal according to international law. The theater's boards should inform their actors that there are apartheid roads for Jews only that lead into the settlement of Ariel. The moment we perform there, we are giving legitimization to this settlement's existence."
The long list of signatories includes many prominent actors, which could make it difficult for the theaters to decide which shows to put on in Ariel without having to make serious changes to the cast.
The list includes Israel Prize laureate Renee Yerushalmi, actors Yossi Pollack and Itay Tiran, director Ofira Henig, playwrights Joshua Sobol and Savyon Liebrecht and many more.
Yesha Council vows 'harsh response'
Liebrecht said in response: "I object to the settlement enterprise and obviously, when it comes to theater, it is my duty not to be silent. Until there is a signed peace agreement, Ariel is not a legitimate community. I haven't crossed the Green Line in years, and as far as I'm concerned, anyone who has decided to live there and wants to enjoy Israeli culture can come to Kfar Saba or any other Israeli city. I believe that if enough actors and people in the theater business sign the letter, the shows won't go up there."
Israel Prize laureate Renee Yerushalmi said, "I am not against, but for the future of the State of Israel. These days talks are being head about the Israeli-Palestinian future, and we must allow them to take place to see if there is hope for future existence here. Ariel today is beyond the Green Line and therefore we must not cross it. This applies to theater productions as well."
Yesha Council said in response: "Our response to the letter signed by a bunch of anti-Zionist leftists and refusniks will be very harsh. This vile letter, which speaks out against the best of the State's sons who defend them while they are acting on stage, requires a direct, poignant and clear response from the theaters' boards, and this is what we expect. We will announce our future steps in the coming days."
The Habima national theater said in response on Friday: "This is the first time the matter of putting on theater shows beyond the Green Line is raised in Israeli discourse. As a national theater, Habima believes discussing the matter is of the utmost importance, but it also calls for an in-depth examination of all the issues it includes… We are looking into the matter."
Dror Gerber, of the Haifa Theater said, "If the actors are expressing ethical and moral claims in their letter, I consider this problematic. The way to express protest and objection to the occupation is not via boycotting the residents of Ariel. The Haifa Theater was founded in order to bring the art of theater to all the citizens of the State of Israel."
Tzipi Pines of Beit Lessin said, "I personally object to the occupation and support peace, but there are people living in Ariel who I respect, and I respect their desire to consume culture."
The Cameri said in response: "We are against boycotts and will perform anywhere where there are people who desire culture and wish to see Israeli theater."
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