Thousands joined a “demonstration of fury” in front of the Treasury on Monday to protest the government’s reluctance to reopen cultural events or compensate the industry’s 150,000 workers. The Jerusalem rally followed several smaller demonstrations over the past few weeks by artists and others workers in the culture industry, which has been shut down for over three months due to the coronavirus.
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Confrontations between protesters and police broke out at the end of the rally, after some demonstrators tried to block a major intersection and disrupt traffic, said police spokesmen. Two demonstrators were arrested.
Various artists called on Finance Minister Yisrael Katz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the rally, urging them to help find a solution for the many members of the industry with families to feed.
Actor Avi Grainik said that he looked up to Netanyahu as the responsible adult, asking him to respect tax-paying citizens, not to ignore and humiliate them. “We demand the compensation we deserve – we don’t have money for food. Your crisis management has returned most people to work, but I’m one of the self-employed workers who for unexplained reasons have not been allowed to resume work.”
Grainik called on Netanyahu to offer a just solution to the problem. “Be a cultured person, show your concern for us, don’t let us feel that we’re marginal to your politics,” he said. Singer Yishai Levi added: “Does the government of Israel have no feelings? Behind me are dozens of good people who simply have nothing to eat.”
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At the end of a meeting of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee, Likud lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton called for an immediate approval of the reopening of all cultural activities. “Culture is not a luxury and is important for the public’s health. I’ll continue to exert pressure for presenting a plan to open this industry.” She added that there was no logic in prohibiting cultural events while allowing events with 250 participants, such as weddings, to take place.
The Israeli Actors Guild questioned how a fringe theater event is different than a synagogue gathering, which is permitted, or how a theater performance differs from a wedding. “The decision to leave cultural events closed carries a whiff of politics,” its representatives said.