Most cities and local authorities are canceling or downsizing Independence Day celebrations. 'I feel that some municipalities see the security situation as an opportunity to save money,' says the chairman of the IsraelArtists Union, Hanan Yovel.
Despite the security situation, not all cities and local authorities have canceled the Independence Day celebrations they planned this year. Some viewed going ahead with the planned events as a challenge. In Herzliya, for example, the events were relocated to the municipal soccer stadium, which will be surrounded with guards. Other cities, such as Holon, decided to move open-air stages to closed halls that can hold fewer people. Only three cities announced that their planned events would take place outside, under heavy security - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Rishon Letzion.
The Union of Local Authorities in Israel reported that Petah Tikvah, Netanya, Rosh Ha'ayin, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Nahariya, Hod Hasharon and Hadera have canceled events at outdoor stages. The union's announcement said the reasons for the move were moral and security-related: "There are warnings constantly. Sometimes the police cancel an event and sometimes make it contingent on the presence of a large number of guards, which is difficult to do. There is a feeling of accumulated depression in some local authorities, and they do not feel a need to hold an event at any cost."
The chairman of the Israel Artists Union, Hanan Yovel, sharply criticized such moves. "I feel that some municipalities see the security situation as an excuse or opportunity to save money," he says. "You have to think now about changes, not about cancelations. For hundreds of artists, an event such as Independence Day considerably helps the catastrophic economic situation of the entertainment industry. Municipalities and local authorities canceled events on short notice. I oppose that not only as the chairman of the Israel Artists Union - whoever cancels is giving in to terrorism."
The artists who will still perform will earn a lot less than in the past. A survey of several organizers and impresarios reveals that rates have in some cases dropped by two-thirds compared to previous years, and most artists will earn just NIS 5,000-8,000 per performance this year. The most popular artists such as Sarit Haddad, Eyal Golan and Shlomi Shabat will earn around $10,000 per performance. Orna and Moshe Datz, Eli Yatzpan and other recognizable television entertainers will also command relatively high fees. Giza Jurist, the owner of the artists management agency, Caspit, estimates that the cumulative damage to the entertainment industry, including canceled Passover and Mimouna events, is in the millions of shekels. "The overall situation is numerous cancelations, downsizing and changes," she says. "This is a trend that's been going on for months already and is now peaking."
Jurist, who represents many artists, lists the canceled performances: in Be'er Sheva, Lior Narkis and Efrat Reitan were to have appeared; in Petah Tikvah, Liat Ahiron and Sarit Haddad; in Kfar Sava and Netanya, Ethnix; in Ramat Hasharon, Riki Gal and Aviva Avidan; and in Haifa, Yoav Yitzhak and Gali Atari. Here and there a few performances will still take place - in Herzliya, for example, Yehudit Ravitz, Arik Sinai and Ethnix will perform this year.
"I can only recall the irony of those years when the media reported on the high fees commanded by performers on Independence Day," says Jurist. "For two years now, that hasn't been the case, and the downturn is clearly felt. Today, there's no difference between holiday rates and regular rates. When it comes to the most popular performers, there is perhaps another 10 percent added to the usual rate."
A big party was planned in Haifa: Yoav Yitzhak, Gali Atari, Dana Dvorin and the stars of the television series "Laga'at Ba'osher" were to appear on the Ben-Gurion pedestrian mall. Municipality spokesman Zvi Roger says that after it became clear that the street could not be hermetically sealed off to meet security needs, it was decided to cancel the performances. "We're calling it a content change and canceling all outdoor events," he says. "There's been an uneasy atmosphere in the city since the terrorist attack at the Matza restaurant and it's a way of showing respect to the victims. Each event was carefully reviewed - the neighborhood picnics in Ramat Alon, Ramat Shaul and Mercaz Hacarmel will take place as usual, just as they did last year."
Regarding the claim that the municipality is exploiting the situation to save money, Roger says: "That's not the reason. The fact is we printed over 100,000 designer brochures and in the end we didn't distribute them. At the same time, we decided to expand the fireworks displays to four venues around the city to nevertheless create some sort of festive atmosphere."
In Rishon Letzion this year, events will take place in four closed areas, where the city's song and dance troupes will perform. At the city's Amphipark, under increased security, there will be a very large event featuring Barry Sakharof, Monica Sex, Knisiat Hasechel and others.
This year, the Tel Aviv Municipality will hold its "Rock Independence" event, featuring Dana International, in Rabin Square.
Tonight, on the eve of Memorial Day, the "Sharim Bakikar" (Singing in the Square) event will take place as it has in previous years.
In Be'er Sheva, where Mayor Yaakov Terner decided to cancel outdoor stage events, there will be a privately staged event that aims to fill the void for the city: the Forum Club will hold a large party in an adjacent hangar and have tight security. Among the DJs at the event will be Sahar Zanglevitz, the house DJ at the Ha'uman 17 club.
In Jerusalem, outdoor stage events will start at noon. Amir Benayoun, Chemi Rudner and Daklon among others will perform in Zion Square. There will also be municipality events in Baka, East Talpiot and Pisgat Ze'ev and singer Miki Gavrielov will perform in Gilo.