By agreeing to perform in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, Habima is forgoing its values of Cultural Zionism while adopting the dangerous mindset of Miri Regev and Benjamin Netanyahu.
By Misha Shulman
Earlier this year Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev announced a new policy for the funding of the arts: artistic organizations that agree to serve the settler population in the occupied West Bank will see a budget increase of 10 percent. Conversely, those who refuse to perform in the West Bank will see a 33 percent decrease.
This policy ignores the fact that under international law, settlements in the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel, which should preclude them from having to perform there, thus further normalizing Jewish life in the territories. Indeed, this week Israel’s national theatre, Habima, announced it will perform for the first time in an ideological settlement in the occupied territories, bringing famed author S.Y. Agnon’s A Simple Story to both Kiryat Arba — adjacent to Hebron — as well as Ariel, the largest settlement in the West Bank.
Habima is more than just a theatre. Since 1917, it has been a bastion of the Hebrew cultural revival — the beating heart of the Zionist Movement. The theatre played a major role in the unimaginable rise of the Hebrew language from its two thousand-year-old nap. By presenting plays by great Hebrew writers of every generation beginning in the 1920, Habima has allowed Jews everywhere to believe in the possibility of a thriving, Hebrew-speaking culture, which draws from history and tradition to create a new, vibrant way of life for our people.
The theatre’s name provides a prime example of the way the nation moved forward, remaking itself out of the beloved traditions of Judaism. Habima, the Hebrew words for “the stage,” refers to the physical platform upon which the hazzan (Hebrew for cantor) stands as she/he leads religious services in a synagogue. For several generations, Israelis have seen its national theatre as its spiritual leader, singing the song of God and Nation, challenging us to repent and improve — to celebrate our struggles, successes, and differences. However one interprets Zionism in today’s landscape, for many of us, Habima has always represented the best side of a complex political movement. Until this week, Habima lived and breathed the vision of the founding figures of Spiritual or...Read More