Education Ministry Set to Pull Controversial Arab Play From School Repertoire

Al-Midan Theater’s ‘A Parallel Time’ was inspired by an incident in a security detainee’s life and has been seen by more than 900 schoolchildren.

Emil Salman

 The Education Ministry is next week expected to remove a play, inspired by the story of a convicted Palestinian terrorist, from its list of approved shows.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday ordered the Repertoire Committee – which approves the performances made available to schoolchildren through the national culture basket – to discuss removing the play “A Parallel Time,” by Haifa’s Al-Midan Theater.

Written and directed by Bashar Murkus, “A Parallel Time” has been running at the theater for a year. It’s about a security detainee who seeks to build an oud in prison as he prepares for his wedding, and was inspired by the story of Walid Daka. A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Daka was convicted of the kidnapping and killing of soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

When it was staged on April 25 to mark the end of Palestinian Prisoners Day, there was a confrontation between some of the actors and Tamam’s family at the entrance to the theater. As a result, Haifa’s city council in early May decided to freeze the theater’s funding for a month, until a municipal committee, headed by Nimrod Shein, evaluated the play.

Bennett said he had instructed his director general to convene the Repertoire Committee and reconsider its support for “A Parallel Time,” which it previously approved in April 2014. Since then, the play has been seen by more than 900 11th and 12th graders.

Bennett said he wanted the play reevaluated, “given that when it was approved, it wasn’t made clear to the professionals that it was an autobiographical story of a terrorist murderer who is serving a sentence for his role in the torture and murder of Moshe Tamam. I believe in the committee’s professionalism and in freedom of expression, but there are things we cannot accept.”

The Education Ministry said, “When the committee approved the performance, it was not brought to its attention that it was based on a true story, and that its performance would hurt the feelings of the bereaved Tamam family.” It was the family that brought the issue to the committee’s attention.

Haifa Municipality is expected to debate the recommendations of the Shein committee Tuesday and decide whether to resume the city’s support of the Arab theater. This support includes paying the rent and city taxes on the halls, so that the performances can be provided free as part of the culture basket in Arabic.

Haaretz has learned that the Culture and Sports Ministry asked Al-Midan for the play’s text in Arabic and sent it for translation into Hebrew, even though it had previously been translated by the theater. Al-Midan sources said that Dr. Irit Fogel-Geva, director of the theater department in the ministry’s culture administration, read the translation, praised the work and said that, in her opinion, it did not include any propaganda, as had been claimed.