auditorium in Kiryat Arba - Tomer Appelbaum - 12092011
The new auditorium in Kiryat Arba. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee has funded part of the construction of an auditorium in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron.

The 400-seat auditorium, to which the ministry contributed NIS 1.5 million, is scheduled to open next week and has already scheduled appearences by the Beit Lessin and Cameri theaters.

The Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee was established in 2005 to find a cabinet position for Shimon Peres, now president. It took under its aegis the Negev and Galilee development authorities.

The Negev Development Authority was founded in 1991; it defines the Negev as everything south of a line that crosses Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malakhi. Kiryat Arba is south of that line.

"The auditorium in Kiryat Arba was established through the pooling of funding from a number of government ministries, among them the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee," the ministry said. "We support cultural events everywhere in the area of the ministry's responsibility, such as the Be'er Sheva, Sderot and Dimona theaters."

Two senior Likud politicians - Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Silvan Shalom - are expected to attend the auditorium's opening. The event is to be hosted by Kiryat Arba Mayor Malachi Levinger, also a member of the Likud Central Committee.

The total cost of the auditorium's construction was NIS 12 million, half of it funded by the government and half by contributions.

Shalom's ministry is making its NIS 1.5 million contribution over two years. The Housing Ministry and Culture and Sports Ministry also helped fund the construction.

Meanwhile, opposition members in the Kiryat Arba city council have called on Levinger to set up a committee to approve productions at the auditorium. The group consists of extreme right-wing councilmen Benzi Gupstein, Israel Bramson and Mordechai Said.

"It's a pity that the mayor is ingratiating himself and inviting the traitors to Kiryat Arba. Their culture is not our culture. We have a magnificent culture of love for the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, and we don't need the culture of Hasfari and his ilk," Gupstein said, referring to playwright Shmuel Hasfari, a former artistic director of the Cameri Theater.

Levinger said that the statement, issued by "a marginal minority on the city council," was an attempt to dampen the celebration of the auditorium's opening "for internal political reasons."

On the funding issue, Levinger added: "We welcome all cabinet ministers who are partners, each in his own area, for building the city of the patriarchs.

Happily, over recent years various government ministries have taken part in projects to strengthen the settlement of Kiryat Arba-Hebron .... Despite pressure by leftists and anarchists, we have been able to develop the city and bring in dozens of new families."