Controversial West Bank cultural center opens


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A cultural center that has stirred controversy with its opening was inaugurated in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, next to Hebron.

Several high-profile actors have refused to perform at the center, which opened Monday night. The center was built with public funds from three Israeli government ministries, as well as from private donations.

Earlier this month, actor Rami Baruch said he would not perform in his play "Pollard" at the center’s opening.

"I made a decision, understanding that it could lead to financial ramifications and counter-boycotts," said Baruch, who portrays the lead character in a play about Jonathan Pollard, the civilian U.S. Navy analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel. "Kiryat Arba is where Baruch Goldstein and Kahane came from, and I asked myself what is my place in this whole story."

More than 500 artists signed a petition in recent days calling for a boycott of the center.

"The opening of a culture center in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, is our Zionist and political answer. We are here — we are not strangers in our own homeland," Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the opening, referring to the Palestinians’ planned statehood bid this week at the United Nations.

Theater professionals signed a petition a year ago stating that they would not perform in a new cultural center in the West Bank city of Ariel that was built with more than $10 million in public funds. The boycott spurred a controversial Israeli boycott law that would allow for civil lawsuits against individuals and groups calling for anti-Israel boycotts.

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