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Israeli event pros hit back at Covid-19 restrictions

Members of the live event, music and arts community in Israel are expressing their frustration at the government’s coronavirus restrictions, as music venues remain closed and self-employed workers demand compensation for losses.

Many took to the streets in Jerusalem on Monday (15 June) to protest against the government’s handling of the cultural sector during the coronavirus crisis, following a postponement to the reopening date for venues and other cultural institutions.

According to Israli newspaper Haaretz, the protest followed several smaller demonstrations over the past few weeks by artists and others workers in the cultural industry.

Venues in Israel had originally been given the go-ahead to reopen on 14 June for events of up to 500 people and at 75% of full capacity.

However, the government pushed back the date over the weekend, with events halls still only able to reopen for religious ceremonies, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs, for up to 250 people, leading some to question why venues cannot open for events of a similar size.

“The government avoids easing of restrictions in the cultural world, and completely prevents the existence of cultural events”

Shaul Mizrachi, owner of Tel Aviv’s Barby nightclub (600-cap.), has filed a petition with the Israli Supreme Court, demanding that the government be ordered to ease restrictions for the cultural sector as it has for others.

“While authorising, among other things, the operation of bars and pubs and, in particular, the holding of large-scale events, including mass dances, in event halls, the government and its offices avoid similar easing of restrictions in the cultural world, and completely prevent the existence of cultural events,” argues Mizrachi.

The Barby owner has been staging a hunger strike in front of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence to protest against restrictions and lack of clarity from the government regarding the reopening of the live business.

Others are protesting against the lack of financial aid for unemployed event industry workers, many of whom work on a freelance basis. IQ understands that members of the Israeli live business are currently raising the funds to initiate court action over the issue.

In May, over 3,000 people attended a rally-cum-music festival in Tel Aviv in support of the Israeli music industry. The event also marked the launch of a US$1 million fund for out-of-work industry professionals.

“Currently there are over 150,000 unemployed people in the [Israeli] live music and production industry,” Hillel Wachs of Israeli promoter 2b Vibes Music, tells IQ. “People are really hurting. The hope is that everything will get back on track by 2021.”

Wachs adds that he is negotiating several new shows for 2021 and 2022 and is optimistic the situation would slowly get return to normal. “People need live music. It’s a no-brainer.”


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