Miri Regev, Israel's Uncultured Culture Minister

Anyone who has never been in a theater and doesn’t feel the need to listen to classical music or read can't be culture minister.

Yossi Sarid
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Miri Regev at a press conference for a summer festival, August 10, 2015. Credit: Moti Milrod
Yossi Sarid

We didn’t give her a hundred days of grace, we gave her 200. We didn’t immediately give up on her. Who knew, maybe she'd surprise us, not be so full of herself and take the time to learn the job.

But that’s not what happened, of course. Within two days she was lecturing us about the difference between 20 and 30 Knesset seats and the lofty and the low.

No, she wasn’t right for the job. She had already reached her level of incompetence as a brigadier general. Ah yes, here come the hecklers coming to her rescue, thinking they’ve caught me at my misogynist worst.

But you haven’t caught me at anything; this column is no haven for men — every week it lashes out at male politicians. It hasn’t spared the rod from  Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ya'alon, Yair Lapid or Ehud Barak — men’s men, all of them. But being a woman doesn’t grant you immunity — if Golda Meir were alive she’d tell you.

Still, they won’t leave me alone; they descend on me like the birds in that Hitchcock movie. She’s Mizrahi, of Middle Eastern origin, they’ll say, so it’s easy to portray her as anti-culture.

That’s also inaccurate. All the guys I mentioned are pure Ashkenazim, even though at the Mizrahim's post-Passover celebrations they're willing to adopt Netanyahu as a Moroccan, just as they adopted Menachem Begin the Pole. But being Mizrahi is no insurance policy; former Foreign Minister David Levy can attest to that.

During Rosh Hashanah I read a long interview with Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev in Israel Hayom to get to know her better. Maybe she’d been done an injustice and we would have to correct it.

“I, Miri Regev-Siboni from Kiryat Gat, daughter of Felix and Marcelle Siboni, have never read Chekhov and almost never went to plays as a child. I listened to Jo Amar and Sephardi songs, and I'm no less cultured than all the consumers of Western culture,” she declared. “Someone who has never been in a theater or cinema and who never read Haim Nahman Bialik can also be cultured.”

Asked if she was a consumer of culture, she replied, “No, not really, and not much Israeli culture . Classical music and opera — barely, here and there maybe . Excuse me, how many people listen to opera here?” The offices of Chekhov and Bialik did not respond by press time.

“Excuse me,” she said, and indeed, she ought to be excused. Because anyone, male or female, who has never read Bialik, never been in a theater or cinema, doesn’t listen to classical music and doesn’t even feel the need to read or listen can't be culture minister.

That doesn’t make you a beast. It just means you’re not suited for the job. And when your milieu is La Familia — the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team's hardcore fans — it's doubtful if even the job of sports minister is suited to your athletic abilities, which are limited to running to weddings and funerals of members of the Likud Central Committee.

After reading this detailed explanation, I’m sure the prime minister will reshuffle his cabinet, demote the unsuitable and offer Regev-Siboni another position. He has always made it a point to put the right person in the right job, like when he sent Ron Dermer to Washington and Danny Danon to the United Nations.

That being the case, I'll allow myself to suggest her replacement. I just read  an interview with a woman in Haaretz's Hebrew edition, and even before that I read her book of poetry. Her name is Adi Keissar, a young Mizrahi woman, the founder of the poetry group Ars Poetica, which is livening up culture and society in this country.

She has a clear advantage over the current minister: She’s not a boor and doesn’t suffer from an inferiority complex that immediately translates into the aggression of an adolescent angry at her spiritual parents.

“I have no poet-mothers to kill, if anything, only to glorify,” Keissar said recently when she hosted a memorial evening for Ashkenazi poet Dalia Ravikovich. “I read everything as a child. I can recite all the songs of Zohar Argov, and I read Camus and Bulgakov.”

You see, Miri, one can be both things. Adi Keissar for culture minister!

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