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Culture Ministry said to condition museum funding on gala with Sara Netanyahu

Israel Museum request to help pay for exhibit celebrating local fashion industry reportedly morphed into demand for a fundraiser with PM’s wife as guest of honor

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Sara Netanyahu, left, and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev attend the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, left, and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev attend the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev reportedly responded to a funding request from the Israel Museum for an exhibit on Israeli fashion by insisting the cash be used to pay for an extravagant fundraising gala, with Sara Netanyahu as the guest of honor.

When the Jerusalem-based museum planned an exhibit showcasing 100 years of fashion design in the country, it asked for funding from a special Culture Ministry administration body, headed by Regev, which is overseeing events to mark Israel’s 70th year of independence, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

Likud minister Regev is a staunch support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, and has stood by their side as they face a series of corruption investigations. The Netanyahus deny any wrongdoing.

Two months ago, the museum contacted the Culture Ministry panel with its request and was told it could be eligible for NIS 500,00 ($136,000), but that the money was to be used for a grand opening ceremony rather than for the exhibit.

According to the Haaretz report, the administration envisioned an event led by Sara Netanyahu and Regev, along with top fashion designers.

However, museum administrators felt that including Netanyahu would require strict security arrangements which would likely exclude much of the public from attending the event, the report said. In addition, they were concerned a costly event would send the wrong message to donors, who might view it as an indication the museum did not require their financial support.

The Israel Museum said in a statement that the Culture Ministry had proposed a budget for a “one-off expensive event” for the opening exhibit “where as the museum preferred to receive a budget that would support the exhibit itself.”

Eventually, the museum turned down the ministry proposal and organized a more modest opening ceremony for the exhibit, titled “Fashion Statements,” which opened last month. According to the report, the opening event cost just one-tenth of the budget the ministry had offered for its gala evening.

In a statement, the Culture and Sports Ministry said that “within the framework of the celebrations for Israel’s 70th year an event was planned to salute the blue and white of the Israeli fashion industry,” a reference to the colors of the Israeli national flag. “The option was raised to cooperate in holding an event saluting Israeli fashion within the museum grounds, in accordance with procedures.”

The ministry said that in the coming weeks a tender will be issued for an event to honor local “blue-and-white fashion” in the context of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

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