A Haaretz report on Wednesday that major Israeli theaters will travel across the Green Line for the first time to perform at a new theater at Ariel has sparked some stormy reactions: Two actors from the national theater, Habima, Yousef Sweid and Rami Heuberger, have already announced that they will not appear in any plays in Ariel.

Sweid, who is currently appearing in "A Railway to Damascus" at Habima, told a Channel 1 television talk show yesterday that "I would be glad to perform in settlements in several shows that have messages I'd like to deliver in many communities. But settlers and settlements are not something that entertains me, and I don't want to entertain them."

No plays

No plays that Heuberger acts in are currently slated to be performed in Ariel, but he said that "if I am asked, I believe I would have a problem with performing there. As a stage actor it is a very, very problematic issue, and I think that so long as settlements are a controversial issue that will be discussed in any negotiations [with the Palestinians], I should not be there."

Shaul Goldstein, a leading settler and head of the Gush Etzion local council, retorted, "we don't need them. The nation of Israel is much stronger than such boycotts."

The plays are scheduled to take place at a cultural center at the West Bank city of Ariel, one that has been under construction for some 20 years, due to recurring funding shortages.

Recently, the city's mayor, Ron Nachman, managed to secure the funding necessary to complete the building, rounding up the total cost at NIS 40 million.
The cultural center is set to open with Be'er Sheva Theater's "Piaf" on November 8, followed by the Cameri Theater performing Bertolt Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," "Havdalah" and "Tuesdays with Morrie". Be'er Sheva Theater will return with "The Count of Monte Cristo," followed by Habima's "Dancing and Flying" and "A Railway to Damascus," and Khan Theater's "Les fourberies de Scapin" by Moliere.

The cultural center's manager, Ariel Turgeman, told Haaretz that he fully believes the venue will be ready for opening within three months. In recent weeks, construction has been going on by night, to allow the Muslim construction workers to fast during the Ramadan month.