Culture Ministry Halts Funding to Haifa's Al-Midan Theater

Ministry representatives cite need to review financial management of Arab theater, which is presenting a politically controversial play.

David Bachar

Israel's Ministry of Culture and Sport has decided to temporarily suspend funding for the Al-Midan Arab theater in Haifa, which is presenting Bashar Murkus’ play “A Parallel Time,” until a review of its financial management is completed.

On Tuesday morning, Minister Miri Regev met with Ortal Tamam, the niece of soldier Moshe Tamam, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1984. “A Parallel Time” was inspired by the story of Walid Daka, who was sentenced to life in prison for committing those crimes.

Haaretz has learned that two days ago, members of the ministry’s theater department visited Al-Midan and met with Murkus and the theater’s management. They also visited the Beit Hagefen Theater in Haifa, and the meetings were described as good.

A statement from Minister Regev noted that at the meeting on Tuesday, Dr. Haim Perlock, chairman of the ministry’s theater department as well as chairman of the National Council for Culture and the Arts, told Tamam that during the visit to Al-Midan, he found that there were “funds whose source the theater management could not name.” The statement added that the theater’s director general, Adnan Tarabash, told Perlock that his theater is “political,” and that Murkus said he identified with Daka.

Perlock says that an inquiry by the national council found that Murkus and Daka are in contact with each other online, as well as with others around the world, and that "plays are being distributed” from Daka's cell in an Israeli prison.

The Culture Ministry's statement reported that the Tamam family and the Almagor organization of bereaved families have presented information “that demands examination by the security establishment,” and that the family and the ministry plan to hand these materials over to the law enforcement authorities. “Dr. Perlock advised the minister to halt funding for the Al-Midan Theater until a comprehensive review of its sources of funding and its relationship with various entities can be completed," it said. "The minister of culture and sport accepted his recommendation to suspend the transfer of funds to the theater until all stages of the review as required by law are completed.”

Besides not receiving funding from the ministry, for more than a month now the Haifa Municipality has halted its financial support for Al-Midan, until a committee headed by the deputy mayor can review the situation at the theater and submit recommendations.

As of this writing, no comments had been received from Al-Midan's Adnan Tarabash or playwright Murkus.