Jerusalem Municipality to Evict Art Gallery, Accusing It of Damaging 'Israel's Good Name'

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Barbour Gallery in Jerusalem, 2018.
Barbour Gallery in Jerusalem, 2018. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The nonprofit art gallery Barbur, which has been under fire from the Jerusalem municipality since it hosted a 2015 gathering of the soldiers’ anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence, is being evicted from its city-owned premises.

In a letter from the director of the municipality’s real estate assets, Rita Ladizhansky, the gallery was informed that its request for municipal space as a nonprofit entity had been turned down, and it would have to vacate the premises within 90 days.

The gallery did not receive the letter directly and officially but rather learned about it through the press.

Barbur has been waging a battle against the municipality to retain its tenancy ever since it hosted a Breaking the Silence event.

Ladizhansky wrote that the committee deciding which entities receive municipal real estate for their use were informed that the municipality’s education department had requested the building be turned into a kindergarten, and that this was the reason the gallery was being evicted.

Hagit Moshe, deputy mayor in charge of education, said in a statement to the press: “The voice of Torah and Zionism will be heard instead of Barbur’s slander.” She added, “I’m glad that the struggle I have been part of since the last term has succeeded and we have killed two birds with one stone – an important addition to the kindergartens and the closing of a gallery that specializes in provocation and damage to Israel’s good name under the guise of artistic freedom.”

However, the gallery operates in an area designated “open public space,” which is not suitable for a kindergarten.

In May, the Jerusalem District Court proposed a compromise – that the gallery submit an official request to the city to allocate it a building. The parties agreed and Barbur submitted the request in July. However, its representatives were not called before the municipal committee to hear their request, which was turned down in an internal discussion before the procedure for allocating municipal property to public bodies could be completed.

Yossi Havilio, a lawyer who represented the gallery and is a Jerusalem city councilman, said he was deeply disappointed in Mayor Moshe Leon’s “choice to go with the extreme right and not freedom of expression.” He said that if a planned public campaign did not succeed, the gallery would pursue legal action in an effort to remain in the location.

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