Jerusalem Holds Off Evicting Gallery That Hosted Anti-occupation NGO

A compromise has been reached that will keep the Barbur Gallery open for at least the next three months, after it earlier sparked city's ire for hosting event by Breaking the Silence

The Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem municipality has agreed to a compromise settlement that suspends the eviction of a non-profit art gallery in city, which sparked ire for hosting events for the anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence.

The settlement allows the gallery to stay open for the next three months while city hall reconsiders whether it can stay at that location.

Last year, the municipality asked the gallery to move somewhere else, evacuating the building it has been occupying in the Nahlaot neighborhood for the last 13 years.

This came about after the gallery hosted events held by Breaking the Silence, an organization of army veterans who bear witness to human rights violations in the occupied territories.

Former mayor Nir Barkat and Culture Minister Miri Regev expressed their desire to see the gallery shut down on several occasions.

Eight months ago, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court accepted the municipality’s demand and ordered the gallery closed. The gallery appealed to the district court with the help of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

In a hearing held on Wednesday, attorney Tal Yakar, representing the municipality, said that “the municipality believes that events of a political nature should not take place at that location. As the agent handling the assets of the municipality, we argue that they should not be held at the gallery.”

Attorney Dan Yakir, representing the gallery on behalf of ACRI, replied that the municipality should not be preventing the holding of such events.

At the end of the hearing, magistrates Arnon Darel, Anat Zinger and Alexander Ron suggested that the two sides find a compromise solution. This, they said, should include a formal request by the gallery that the municipality allocate it the building, with the municipality then examining this request according to normal procedures.

If the request is denied, the gallery should be evacuated within 90 days, but the gallery will be able to appeal again. The two sides accepted this offer, postponing the gallery’s closure by at least three months.

City councilman Yossi Havilio, an attorney who represented the gallery in earlier court sessions, welcomed the decision.

“A compromise is an achievement, since it invalidates the Magistrate Court’s decision, with the gallery remaining where it is. The issue now goes back to city hall and I hope the new mayor will allow the gallery to stay in its present location, since it’s important for Jerusalem from an artistic, cultural and community aspect, and from the aspect of freedom of expression. If this doesn’t work out, we’ll be back in court.”