'Actors' Boycott on Settlement Cultural Center Will Tear Israel Apart'

Minister of Culture and Sport slams 36 actors, artists, who refuse to participate in productions at new theater in Ariel.

Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat on Saturday responded harshly on Saturday to an announcement by 36 theater actors and staff who declared they would refuse to perform at a cultural center built in the settlement of Ariel.

Limor Livnat Nir Keidar April 2010
Nir Keidar

"The theater directors should enlist immediately to address this crisis, since the actors and artists have decided to divide Israeli society," Livnat said.

The cultural center at the West Bank city of Ariel has been under construction for some 20 years, due to recurring funding shortages.

"This serious [boycott] creates a tear in the Israeli society and discriminates between audiences based on the political views of the actors and artists," Livnat went on to say. "Culture is a social bridge and we must leave politics out of the cultural and artistic realms."

The minister further called on theater directors to stick to the planned performance schedule, despite the boycott, in Ariel and all over the country, saying that "every citizen in Israel has the right to enjoy culture – anywhere."

The theater directors issued a response on Saturday, saying that the theater companies will perform anywhere there are Israeli citizens who love theater, including Ariel. "We will respect the political views of our actors," the statement said, "but we will bring the best of Israeli theater to Ariel."

On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that sveral of Israel's leading theater companies had agreed to perform in the new cultural center, due to open on November 8. The companies include the Habima National Theater, the Cameri Theater, the Be'er Sheva Theater and Jerusalem's Khan Theater.

The report sparked a stormy response, with 36 leading actors and theater personnel signing a letter addressed to the directors of their respective theater groups declaring that they would not participate in productions at the Ariel center.