Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Israeli "Artists" on the Dole

The artists that refused to appear in Ariel made a lot of noise. In the end, I think that they and their colleagues will probably regret this refusal, a cheap imitation of ignorant artists from abroad that refuse to appear in Israel at all.

What's more, the commotion caused by these artists brought to light a fact that is rarely brought to the attention of the public, a fact that they would probably prefer remained concealed deep in the books of the Israeli Government's budget: these people are on the dole.

According to the paper "Yisrael Hayom", the various theaters in Israel are supported by the state to the tune of 88 million shekels per year. The "HaBima" theater receives 25 million, the "Kameri" was given 11 million, 8.8 million goes to "Beit Lisin", 6.6 million shekels is allocated to the "Gesher" theater, 5.5 to the Be'er Sheva theater, another 5.5 million to the "Khan" theater in Jerusalem, 3.3 million to the Haifa Municipal theater. The remainder is given to various small theaters.

Why in the world does the government have to subsidize theaters? Did the American government have to fund Oscar Hammerstein? Did George and Ira Gershwin receive subsidies? It is especially hard to ignore the above questions when one looks at the great contribution that Jews have made to the American entertainment industry, in contrast to the dismal output of the Israeli theater.

To date the Israeli theater has not produced anything of note. Where is the Israeli musical that was so appealing that it was performed all over the world in different languages, an Israeli "Fiddler on the Roof"? Unfortunately it has yet to be written. What's worse, often the plays and musicals produced in the Promised Land are post-Zionist, anti-Torah tirades that appeal to a very small percentage of the public. I am willing to wager that if the theaters had to survive solely on the basis of ticket sales, the quality of what they offered the public would improve greatly.

The subsidization of Israel's theaters is an anachronism that is not only harmful to the tax paying public: it prevents any real creativity by the artists themselves. Unfortunately, chances are that the Israeli public will continue to payroll the often exorbitant lifestyles of these actors, directors, playwrights etc. These "artists" on the dole will lack any incentive to produce anything original or appealing. Instead, they will continue to preach their puny politics to people of their own ilk at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.

I think it is fitting to finish this post with Rabbi Nechuniah Ben HaKana's prayer (Brachot 28B):

מודה אני לפניך ה' אלהי ששמת חלקי מיושבי בית המדרש ולא שמת חלקי מיושבי קרנות שאני משכים והם משכימים אני משכים לדברי תורה והם משכימים לדברים בטלים אני עמל והם עמלים אני עמל ומקבל שכר והם עמלים ואינם מקבלים שכר אני רץ והם רצים אני רץ לחיי העולם הבא והם רצים לבאר שחת

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