Tel Aviv’s Habima theater will be participating as scheduled in Globe to Globe, a six-week festival taking place at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, The Times of Israel was told on Monday, despite pressure from Emma Thompson and others to ban the Israeli company.
The Habima National Theater would not formally comment on the matter on Monday, but sources close to management said the theater would be appearing as planned at the festival, which runs from late April to June.
Two-time Oscar winner Thompson, recent Tony winner Mark Rylance and seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh were among three dozen actors, directors and writers who signed a letter last week expressing “dismay and regret” that Habima was invited to the festival and urging organizers to withdraw their invitation. In the protest letter, Habima was accused of having “a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Habima, like other nationally funded theaters, has been scheduled to perform several times this year at the new performing arts theater in Ariel, a West Bank settlement. Like other national theaters, Habima is supported by government funds and can’t make politically motivated decisions, the sources said, although several actors did boycott the show in protest of the decision.
The theater’s performance of “Dancing and Flying” took place as scheduled at Ariel in February, according to the theater’s spokesperson.
The Thompson letter is the latest in a series of protests against the Israeli theater’s participation in the festival; it is currently scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice” at the festival twice in late May.
A February New York Times op-ed on the subject commented on the irony of Habima being scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice,” and that “once again Shylock is at the center of a trial, and as always, the trial reveals more about his attackers than it does about him or his creator.”
“Habima [sic] has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” says the protest letter, published March 29 in England’s Guardian newspaper. The document notes that unlike other members of Israel’s theater community, Habima did not participate in a boycott of the Ariel cultural center that opened in 2010. “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law,” the letter says.
The letter declares that signatories have “no problem” with Globe to Globe’s desire to include Hebrew in the festival, which will showcase the Bard’s 37 plays in 37 languages. “But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company,” the letter states. “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”
Other companies participating in the festival include the National Theatre of China, which will perform “Richard III” in Mandarin, and the Ashtar Theatre, a Palestinian company that will perform “Richard II” in Arabic.