Netanyahu’s Office Funding Right-wing Theater Company's Play on Assassinated Minister

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Rehavam Ze'evi (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999.
Rehavam Ze'evi (right) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999.Credit: Government Press Office

The Prime Minister’s Office will spend 100,000 shekels ($26,000) funding a play about assassinated minister Rehavam (“Ghandi”) Ze’evi. The production is to be written and produced by a theater company whose management is identified with the right wing and Habayit Hayehudi party.

Ze’evi was a former cabinet minister and Israel Defense Forces general who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the Hyatt Hotel, Jerusalem, in October 2001, during the period of the second intifada. The terrorists were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Ze’evi was a controversial figure throughout his political career. He served in a number of senior positions in the IDF, including head of the GOC Central Command, and retired in 1974 with the rank of major general – after having served in the IDF since Israel’s foundation in 1948.

He entered politics in 1988 and founded the Moledet (Homeland) party, which supported “Greater Israel” and the idea of a voluntary transfer of some of Israel’s Arab population to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He was tourism minister at the time of his murder, although his resignation from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government in protest at a softened stance toward the Palestinians was meant to become effective on the day of his death.

The Aspaklaria Theater will produce the play, part of an official government project in Ze’evi’s memory. Its annual budget for 2015 is estimated at nearly 3 million shekels. The project is based on a law passed in 2005. Both the public body for memorializing Ze’evi and the PMO said that they examined three possible theaters for the writing and production of the play: The Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth in Tel Aviv; Eretz Israel Museum; and Aspaklaria.

The PMO’s tenders committee held a meeting on the matter in early March. A tender published later on the Finance Ministry’s website stated that Aspaklaria had shown a willingness to write the play. Committee members hinted that the identification of the theater with a certain political sector was part of the consideration to granting it the commission. “This is a theater that appeals to the appropriate audience,” the minutes of the committee’s meeting stated.

The Aspaklaria Theater was founded in Jerusalem in 1998 by actor and rabbi Hagay Lober. He is a member of Habayit Hayehudi and mulled running in the party’s primaries for the last election, deciding against it as there were so many other candidates running.

In July 2013, Lober told Channel 7 (Arutz Sheva) he was in favor of encouraging theaters to produce more plays in a Zionist spirit since so many local theaters staged “anti-Israeli” plays. “The Cameri presents a [play about a] terrorist killed by the IDF; it happens here all the time. In general, I am against shutting people up, but I think there needs to be a certain limit,” he said.

The Aspaklaria website says its main goal “is to reawaken the Jewish culture with all its beauty. The [theater’s] shows deal with the conflict between the believing Jew and the modern world.”

In January this year, Channel 2’s “Uvda” documentary program revealed that when Ze’evi was employed as an adviser to the police minister in 1980, he helped murderers Tuvia Oshri and Rahamim Aharoni to flee Israel. The men were members of the Kerem Hateimanim crime gang and considered at the time to be among the leaders of local organized crime. The two told “Uvda” that Ze’evi met with them and they asked for his help to board a cargo ship belonging to one of his friends. They also said that after fleeing the country, they paid for Ze’evi to fly to where they were hiding in Amsterdam, where he provided them with information on the investigation against them.

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