Protesters outside Habima Theater in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2010. Nir Kafri
Protesters outside Habima Theater in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2010. Photo by Nir Kafri
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A group of about 300 demonstrators gathered on Monday outside Habima Theater in Tel Aviv to protest the theater's decision to stage performances at a new cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

"We are here not only to support the actors [who refuse to participate in plays performed beyond the Green Line] but to support the right of people to express their opinion, not to take part in the 'occupation festival,'" said Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now. "We do not want to participate in the festivities of Ariel."

Fifty-three Israeli theater professionals, including performers, playwrights and directors, signed a petition stating they would not appear in performances in Ariel.

Among the protesters were MKs Nitzan Horowitz, Dov Khenin and Haim Oron,
along with actors Hana Meron, Oded Kotler, Orly Zilbershatz, playwright Yehoshua Sobol, former MKs Yael Dayan and Zahava Gal-On and former Ma'ariv editor in chief, Doron Glazer.

"We came to thank the actors," Meretz Chairman MK Haim Oron told the crowd. "We came to say that when they established the cultural center in Ariel, they performed a political act. It is a basic right not to perform in Ariel."

Playwright Sobol said, "When society attacks artists, it is a symptom of its unwillingness to look in the mirror."

There was also a counter-demonstration at the site, attended by about 15 people holding signs reading "You are traitors."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized on Sunday the theater figures' boycott, saying that the government doesn’t need to fund a group promoting a boycott of Israel from within.