Galleries, Artists, Bookstores Pull Out of Tel Aviv's White Night

Alternative 'Black Night' festival will be held in south Tel Aviv.

Nine Tel Aviv galleries have canceled their participation in Thursday's White Night cultural festival to protest the arrest of dozens of social-justice activists Saturday night.

Galleries that have announced they are pulling out of the all-night, city-sponsored festival include Shay Arye, Kaymah, Alfred, Gal-On, Indie, Binyamin, Julie M., the Center for Contemporary Art and Kibbutz Gallery.

"Tel Aviv is a city we love and it is important to all of us, but we believe that at the moment there is no reason to celebrate," the galleries said, referring to the arrest of 85 protesters during Saturday night's social-justice demonstration. A literary event scheduled to take place at the Shalom Tower as part of the White Night festival also was canceled after participants, including authors Etgar Keret and Orly Castel-Bloom, bowed out.

The Third Ear, a bookstore that regularly hosts performances, canceled its marathon performance planned for White Night as well, "in light of recent events and the voices of protest (and how they were treated ) this week in Tel Aviv."

Among the acts set to take the stage at the Third Ear were Sharon Roter, the Nag Hammadi band, Midnight Peacocks and Dafna Armoni. "We apologize to the artists who were preparing for the marathon," the shop said.

A call went out over the Internet Sunday asking musicians not to perform in the White Night festival. It is not known whether any musicians have withdrawn from the event.

Meanwhile, a group of social activists is staging an alternative event Thursday called "Black Night," to be held in the poor Shapira neighborhood of south Tel Aviv. The event has been billed as "an event of happy protest, with music and performances, a protest party against the neglect of the neighborhoods."

The invitation to the event, which was posted on Facebook, states that it will take place "while, in central Tel Aviv, with pomp and circumstance, the White Night will be going on, intended to glorify the satiated White City north of Menachem Begin Boulevard."

The Tel Aviv municipality responded in a statement: "White Night involves hundreds of cultural, music and arts events, most of which are free so they are accessible to the general public. The municipality hopes that White Night will be a night of culture and music for everyone who attends."

"The city allows use of public space for demonstrations and views social protest as a legitimate and justified act," the statement continued. "However, the public space is for the use of the general public and the municipality must strike a balance between the right to protest and maintaining public order and concerns for residents' needs."

The city said it would not allow tents to be pitched on Rothschild Boulevard in light of the "nuisances" posed by tent protests to residents last year. The courts have backed the city's policy prohibiting tent protests, the municipality noted.

"The municipality regrets the excessive violence toward protesters, which was not typical of the struggle last year," the city said. "It is a shame that there are people who are trying to take advantage of legitimate protest and involve violence that included blows, spitting and cursing at city employees."