‘A death blow’: Coronavirus brings curtain down on Israeli cultural life

With all theaters and live shows cancelled, professionals worry for their livelihood even as they understand the reason for the restrictions.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement Saturday night that all entertainment venues will be closed for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic has Israel’s art world worried for its future, Israel Hayom reported on Sunday.

The paper described the new guidelines, which first prevented gatherings over 5,000 and as of Saturday reduced that number to 10, as a “death blow” to Israel’s cultural life.

Actor and director Moni Moshonov summarized the feelings of many when he told the daily that he understood the situation and was concerned at the same time.

“Of course there are more important things, that this saves lives and prevents the plague from spreading,” said the popular comedian. “We are experiencing an event that only history will be able to chronicle accurately. But there’s no doubt that it’s very sad. The livelihood of so many people is in danger. I hope that we’ll recover and get over this illness very quickly.”

Actress and writer Maya Dagan echoed the opinion of all businesspeople who have been affected by the gradual shutdown of a large portion of Israel’s economy in its effort to contain the virus that has infected just over 200 people.

Saying that the most frightening part was not knowing when the crisis would end, she said, “I expect that the government will give its support, that it will help where needed, because people are being fired, they’re left without work.”

Last week’s limit of public gatherings to 100 people had already forced the cancellation of most performances. According to Channel 12 News, it was the first time in the iconic Tel Aviv theater Habima’s 103-year history that it was closed.

Theaters around the country followed suit, as did all concerts, TV show tapings and even smaller venues like clubs with live entertainment.

Moshonov’s new show in the Haifa Theater was actually canceled last week just as he was about to go on stage. “Suddenly we are told that, due to recent events, the hundreds of people in the audience have to go home, and we do too,” co-star Shlomo Baraba said at the time. “It was very dramatic. It reminds me of the Gulf War.”