After reaching a deficit of more than NIS 100 million and prior to its collapse, Israel’s national theater – “Habima” – has been rescued by a joint initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, the Histadrut, and Shaham – The Israeli Actors Guild.
Following an approach by Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Tropper to Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai, the latter agreed to the minister’s request to transfer the activities of Habima national theater to the municipality – amid a feeling of civic responsibility and due to Tel Aviv-Yafo’s status as the cultural center of the State of Israel.
The municipality has developed a mutually agreed plan to absorb the theater as a new municipal subsidiary, promising its balanced management for the years to come following administrative work with the government, trustees and employees.
As part of the plan, the Histadrut, Shaham, Habima workers and actors associations, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Habima management and Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality reached a set of agreements regarding the future employment of workers and actors.
In parallel, and following court decisions and operation of the theater by its trustees, the municipality has submitted a request to the Interior Ministry to establish a new municipal subsidiary, tasked with continued responsibility for operations at Habima national theater. Following receipt of approval from the ministry, the new subsidiary will be established, and employ workers and actors in accordance with agreements and understandings reached following an intensive and dedicated effort by all involved parties.
The agreements and understandings embody the will of the parties to enable an appropriate transaction, given the crisis faced by the theater and the crisis faced by the culture sector in general. This will enable the theater to return to its routine of staging performances and continue its long tradition of theater which commenced in Moscow in 1918, and which has accompanied the people and the state for more than a century.
Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has appointed a new board of directors for the national theater, headed by Ziva Patir, who served for more than a decade as CEO of the Standards Institute of Israel, and currently serves on many boards of directors. Noam Semel has been appointed to lead the transition as director-general of the theater.
MK Hili Tropper, Minister of Culture and Sports: “After years of financial crisis and real existential danger, I am glad that we have been able to help the national theatre and help continue its important and valued activities. At the end of a long process, and in partnership with Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, we have succeeded to safeguard the existence of this cultural institution, including its unique status. The new agreement will ensure the continued creation of the theater’s unique content and the employment of its workers. The enormous cultural work dating back more than a century will continue to develop courtesy of the new arrangement, and the threat of closure of Habima theater has been removed. I thank Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, the Histadrut, Shaham, the trustees appointed by the court, the Finance Ministry and all the partners to this solution.”
Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo: “The civic responsibility of Tel Aviv-Yafo did not allow us to leave the national theater to close down. Courtesy of the establishment of the new Habima as a municipal subsidiary, the century-old theater will continue to exist and serve as a key actor in the Israel cultural sector. I am pleased and proud by the move, and we will do our utmost so that Habima theater will flourish and create fine productions.”
Gershon Gelman, Chairman of the Histadrut’s Tel Aviv-Jaffa Regional Labour Council: “Following long negotiations lasting six intensive months, we have reached an initial agreement between the Histadrut, workers union and the CEO of the Bureau of Municipal Companies. We initially approached the agreement with serious concerns when we learned that the state had decided to shun Israel’s national theater. On a personal note, I saw it as a top priority to save the national theater – one of the primary cultural figures in the State of Israel throughout the 102-year history since its founding. I am grateful for the initiative of Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai, who took on this important national mission, together with a dedicated team and all the relevant bodies who all came together – even during the COVID-19 outbreak – to hold intensive meetings and lead the national theater, with great hope, toward a new path and safer shores. Personally, this was one of the most important and great challenges that I met this year.”
Noam Semel, Director-General of Habima national theater: “On behalf of the ‘Habima’ family and millions of spectators since 1918 and until today, we thank Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and its head for the Zionist decision to adopt ‘Habima’ and embrace it for the sake of Israel’s national theater.”
Ori Reshtik, Director of Operations at Shaham: “We are happy and excited ahead of the reopening of the theater, and thank Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality for the step which cannot be taken for granted. The collective agreement signed between the municipality and Shaham is a breakthrough agreement that will ensure the fair and proper employment of all the actors at the theater.