Culture Minister Received With Boos at Israel's National Theater

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Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev holding a press conference.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev holding a press conference. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev was received with boos at Habima National Theater's presentation of Evita in Tel Aviv. In an unusual step, the minister gave a political speech before the musical began and said she would not allow state funding to theatres and bodies that "undermine Israel's existence."

Regev recently raised a public storm when she proposed the so-called "loyalty bill" that would authorize her ministry to cut off government funding to cultural institutions that "undermine" Israel and its symbols. 

Habima general manager Odelia Friedman thanked Regev for "opening your door to us and for recognizing the importance of Habima as a national theater."

Regev climbed onto the stage to booing from the audience. Friedman tried to silence the audience. Regev said "we came here for the sounds, colors and beauty of Evita" and said her ministry was acting to strengthen the theater.

Regev also spoke about the rumors and reports of the new "support tests" for theaters as a condition for funds. "Yesterday there were voices about my alleged decision to transfer funds from Tel Aviv's theaters to theaters in the periphery. I announce here, no such thing. Those things aren't true," Regev said.

"I see cultural activity in the metropolis as highly important. I also visit London and New York and recognize the importance of powerful culture in a large city. The center and periphery strengthen each other, influence and inspire each other. But multi-culturalism is reflected among other things by the artistic discourse between the artists nationwide," she said.

At the end of her speech Regev said "I believe in distinguishing between the freedom of expression and the freedom of funding. The freedom of expression is the DNA of every democracy. I have no intention of dealing with that freedom, with censorship or some content or another. I have declared repeatedly that every theater has the right to have its say and all that this implies. However, I won't lend a hand to giving state funding in the name of the freedom of expression to activity that undermines Israel's very existence as a Jewish and democratic state," she said.

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