Opening of Ariel Cultural Center
Opening of Ariel Cultural CenterYoni Kempinski

Dozens of Israeli movie and TV directors have joined the boycott of the theater in Ariel, it was reported on Sunday.

The boycott was first announced several months ago by Israeli theater artists and academics who refused to perform in Ariel simply because of its location in Samaria. The artists and actors wrote in a letter to the national management of theaters in Israel that no performances should be held in Judea and Samaria. Performing in places such as Ariel, they claimed, was "against their consciences."

The directors who have joined the boycott claim that they are not necessarily motivated by the ideology of refusing to perform in Judea and Samaria, but by the issue of freedom of speech. This is evident from an online petition signed by the directors, which reads: "Together with you we will stand up for our civil rights and moral duty to express our opinion and to act according to our political positions and our conscience, and therefore to try and influence the future of the State of Israel."

Another possible reason could be a proposal made last week by Culture Minister Limor Livnat, who suggested requiring state-supported Israeli theater companies to require actors to agree to perform in any Israeli venue in order to retain their government funding.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to the boycott at Sunday's weekly Cabinet meeting, and said: “I think that the Center is important and that Ariel is important. I was involved in establishing the Center. I understand that some people are calling to boycott the Center, and are criticizing Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat for battling the boycott. As we know, boycotts begin, but they do not end. Those who boycott are imposing a wound on all of us. Cultured people should not be involved in boycotts or attacks against a minister, or against a town in Israel.”

Knesset Members have suggested cutting off funding for artists who refuse to appear in the Ariel. Hayik Bamot, a veteran stage props firm, recently announced that it will “boycott the boycott”. The company's owner, Yitzchak Hayik, said that he would “refuse to take part in any play, production or musical that has the initiators of this boycott among its creators and participants.”

Despite the boycott, the theater officially opened last week with hundreds of Ariel's residents in attendance. On opening night, the Be’er Sheva Theatre group performed the play “Piaf,” about the life of the French chanteuse Edith Piaf.