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Israeli actors refuse to perform across Green Line

This week’s refusal by three Israeli theater stars to perform across the Green Line raises the dilemma of commitment to one’s art or one’s conscience.
A MEMBERS OF THE ACTORS COMPANY 'IMBAL PINTO DANCE' FROM ISRAEL PERFORM DURING THE INTERNATIONAL THEATER FESTIVAL (FIT).  A members of the actors company 'Imbal Pinto Dance' from Israel perform during the International Theater Festival (FIT) in Caracas, April 8, 2004. The troupe is one of 16 companies taking part in the festival. REUTERS/Howard Yanes - RTRH3EA
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Actors have a difficult life, everybody knows that. But it’s 10 times as hard to be an actor in Israel. An ideological argument among actors employed by establishment theaters in Israel is once again rearing its head these days, and with even more fury than in the past. The argument is over what comes first: the actors’ commitment to their performances, or to their conscience. Ever since the theater in Ariel's Culture Hall was first inaugurated back in 2010, several theater actors in Israel announced that they would not perform in a venue built in a settlement across the Green Line. They claimed that Ariel is not part of the State of Israel, and their commitment to perform within the country does not include Ariel or any other settlement.

It all began with a letter signed by numerous artists and performers, among them Israel Prize laureate Rina Yerushalmi, actor and director Itay Tiran and the late playwright Anat Gov who was very active politically before she died a year ago. Gov’s work includes the play "Best Friends," which was directed by her close friend, the playwright, director and author Edna Mazya. A newer version of the play appeared on stage this past March. In December, it rekindled all the old political passions. The actresses participating in this joint production by two of Israel’s leading theaters, Beit Lessin and the Cameri Theater, told their respective theater managers that they refused to perform in Ariel. This time it wasn’t just one lone conscientious actor who could easily be replaced. It was the three stars of the play, all top-tier actresses in Israel: Sarit Vino-Elad, Yael Leventhal and Maya Dagan. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Edna Mazya, who is the in-house director of the Cameri Theater, called their stance understandable and obvious.

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