Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev froze state funding Tuesday for an Arabic-language theater that has become embroiled in controversy over its production of a play based on the life of a killer of an Israeli soldier.
Regev’s decision to shut the spigot for the Al-Midan theater cited a recommendation by the Israel Arts and Culture Council that alleged the theater had questionable sources of funding.
The Haifa theater has been at the center of controversy for months for its play “A Parallel Time,” which documents a day in the life of a Palestinian prisoner.
The Palestinian prisoner is a fictionalized version of terrorist Walid Daka, an Arab-Israeli man who received a life sentence for abducting and murdering Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.
Since its release, the family of Tamam has protested “A Parallel Time,” causing Education Minister Naftali Bennett to pull his ministry’s funding of the play earlier this month.
Regev, who has ignited a firestorm in recent days after artists chafed at her positions against subversive works that “delegitimize” Israel, met with Tamam’s family Tuesday and announced her decision to halt funding of the theater.
Chairman of the Israel Arts and Culture Council Dr. Haim Perluk told reporters that the reason for the decision was a question over “funds that the theater’s managers did not know how to explain their source.”
Perluk, who instigated the review of the theater following the recent public outcry over the play, was “astonished” to find potential problems with the theater’s financials, he told Ynet news.
In a meeting, the Al-Midan director, Adnan Tarabash, also told him that the theater was “political,” Perluk said.
The play’s author, Bashar Morkus, said he “connected” to the terrorist Daka and was “inspired” by him, Perluk added.
Tamam’s niece Ortal, who led the charge against the play, told the reporters that a theater that “takes terrorists and glorifies them, a theater like that cannot receive support from the State of Israel.”
After the Tuesday meeting, Perluk also revealed the state’s intentions to investigate Morkus on security grounds for speaking with Walid Daka, who has access to a computer in jail.
Ortal Tamam confirmed that statement, telling Ynet news, “The minister Miri Regev sent a letter to the justice minister in order to examine the connection between terrorism and the Al-Midan Theater.”
The Al-Midan management and the play’s director have maintained the play was simply a fictionalized account of the day-to-day activities of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and does not address, nor glorify, acts of terror.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.