A Haifa theater that held terror plays and other controversial activities was closed.
By Sheri Oz, World Israel News
On Sunday, after a five-year battle, the court-ordered closure of Haifa’s Al-Midan Theater Association was posted on the website of Israel’s registrar of nonprofits. The theater has put on a play extolling the life of a terrorist who killed an IDF soldier. However, the theater ultimately closed for technical reasons.
Terror victims’ association Almagor and human rights organization Btsalmo fought to have the theater shut down after it produced “A Parallel Time” in 2014 about a day in the life of Walid Daka.
Shai Glick, CEO of Btsalmo, heard about about the play about the terrorist, an Israeli citizen, who was serving a life sentence for the abduction and murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam.
Glick turned to Haifa city council members and to Almagor and the pro-Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu for help.
According to Almagor’s CEO, Lt.-Col. (ret.) Meir Indor, much of the driving force behind the fight to close down the theater was carried out by members of the Tamam family.
A demonstration outside the theater and a clash between protesters and play-goers aroused media attention.
As a result, the municipality froze its contributions to the theater while conducting an investigation into whether or not taxpayer money should continue to fund an organization that appeared to support terror.
However, the play had been approved by both the Education Ministry and the Culture Ministry and was on the basket of cultural events approved for pupils in the public school system.
In February 2015, Haifa unfroze the funding to the theater, and in June, the culture committee decided not to remove the play from the basket of approved cultural events.
Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education at the time, used his authority to have it removed, and the Culture Ministry under Miri Regev decided to defund the theater.
Adalah, an organization supporting legal rights of the Arab minority in Israel, filed a petition to the court in October 2015 to have the funding reinstated. In March 2016, funding was restored. Israel’s attorney general said funds could not be withheld because of artistic content.
The play was not the only reason for fighting to close Al-Midan Theater. Almagor discovered that they were also conducting political meetings in support of an enemy country (Syria) and a terrorist organization.
Representatives of Al-Midan’s board argued that the few such sessions held in their theater were conducted by unaffiliated groups that merely rented the space.
In the end, the theater was closed for technical reasons as evidence was found that the association was not acting in accordance with the criteria for proper administration.
Haifa City Council member Raja Zaatry (Hadash Party) expressed his disappointment in the closure of the Al-Midan, which also put on classical plays translated into Arabic as well as plays written by local talent and Arabs from other countries.
He said, “It all started from political harassment because of one play that raised a controversial issue, the humanity of a political prisoner who, himself, expressed remorse for his actions. They looked for irregularities and they found them because there is no theater that does not suffer from deficits; theater is not profitable. Furthermore, Al-Midan could not fulfill the minimum number of performances because of funds that were withheld.
“The play was not the real issue but, rather, the fact that Culture Minister Miri Regev thinks that art has to reflect the views of the Likud,” Zaatry claimed.
Glick told WIN: “The court decision makes its message clear. There is no forgiveness for supporters of terror even under the disguise of culture and art. Every organization that supports terror needs to know that it does not matter under what umbrella they operate, Btsalmo will fight for their ultimate closure.”
The closure of Al-Midan does not leave Haifa entirely without an independent theater. The Khashabi Ensemble operates in a much smaller theater in downtown Haifa and puts on plays mainly by local writers.