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Israel rolls out green pass for vaccinated concertgoers

The first concert held as part of the latest reopening of the Israeli economy took place over the weekend, with entry restricted to those who have had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Singer Ivri Lider, one half of electro-pop due the Young Professionals (TYP) and a judge on The X-Factor Israel, performed to an audience of 500 fans at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium for a show organised by authorities in Israel’s second-largest city. Up to 1,000 people are now allowed at indoor events in Israel, and 1,500 for open-air shows, provided they have a ‘green pass’ – documentation showing they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

In a video posted to the city of Tel Aviv Twitter page, Lider is shown performing to a non-socially distanced – albeit seated and mask-wearing – audience seated in a single stand of the 29,400-capacity Bloomfield Stadium, which is home to Israeli Premier League football team Hapoel Tel Aviv. The stadium has previous hosted a number of major concerts, including shows by Rihanna, Celina Dion, Soundgarden, Phil Collins, Pixies, Barbra Streisand and the Black Eyed Peas.

The 1,000/1,500-person limit currently only applies to venues with over 10,000 seats, although up to 500 people are allowed in indoor venues smaller than that, and up to 750 people in any open space.

The green pass programme, designed to ensure Israel’s third lockdown was its last, is similarly allowing many hospitality, leisure and retail businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, cafés, gyms and shops, to reopen without social distancing, although some have objected on a civil rights basis to what they see as enforcing vaccinations. Over 40% of Israelis have already had both doses of the vaccine.

“After a year of Covid we can finally restart our cultural and entertainment activities”

The Friday 5 March Ivri Lider show was the first of four concerts being organised in Bloomfield Stadium by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, which governs the Mediterranean city. In order to enter the stadium, concertgoers had to produce their green pass – a certificate, either physical or virtual, issued by the Ministry of Health – confirming they had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19.

It was followed by a show on Sunday 7 March by ’80s pop star Yardena Arazi, who similarly played to an audience of 500 green pass holders.

Speaking to the Media Line news agency, Tel Aviv city spokesman Eytan Schwartz said both shows sold out within a quarter of an hour. “People are very eager to come and have a good time,” he says.

One Ivri Lider fan, Reut Gofer, told Agence France-Presse: “This is really cool. I am so happy. I hope this is the beginning of a period when we will return to our normal life.”

“As the majority of our population is already vaccinated, after a year of Covid we can finally restart our cultural and entertainment activities,” Schwartz added.

“We are organising these concerts because we want […] to have access to culture again, we want to regain our previous life. I hope that very soon we will be able to fill this stadium with 30,000 people, as it should be.”

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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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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Israeli stars perform for 3,000+ at pro-industry rally

At least 3,000 people gathered on Charles Clore beach in Tel Aviv last night (21 May) for a rally-cum-music festival in support of the Israeli music industry.

Initiated by entrepreneurs Inbar and Marius Nacht, the event marked the launch of a ₪3.5 million (US$990,000) fund in aid of the 170,000 music industry professionals out of work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Calcalist. It was permitted by authorities in the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, as Israeli law allows protests, even under current restrictions on consent.

The event, dubbed ‘Behind the Scenes’, featured performances by popular Israeli artists including Aviv Geffen, Berry Sakharof, Shalom Hanoch, Yishai Levy, Rita, Si Hyman, Hope 6, Dikla, Rona Keenan and Esther Rada.

The English-language Times of Israel put the number of attendees even higher, at 5,000.

“It is exciting to see the thousands who have come here,” Geffen told attendees. “It is a very strange period, but we came here to support our wonderful friends… Over 170,000 people were left without a living overnight, and I’m here for them.”

“We came here to support our wonderful friends”

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, organisers urged guests to comply with ministry of health guidelines on social distancing. Large Xs were marked on the beach to ensure people kept two metres apart on arrival, and participants were requested to wear face masks.

Life is gradually returning to normal in Israel, with schools, retail businesses and places of worship having reopened in recent weeks. However, live entertainment venues remain closed.

Yoni Feingold, chair of the Association of Show and Performing Arts Producers of Israel, emphasised the need for an urgent return to activity for the sector, telling attendees that “without artists, there is no culture in Israel”.

“Culture is food for the soul; it’s national resilience,” he said. “We must help all those who are now in distress, because without culture there is no future.”

 


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$17k fine for Lorde Israel boycott organisers

Two New Zealand women who allegedly influenced Lorde to cancel a planned show in Tel Aviv have been ordered to pay ₪45,000 (US$12,400) in damages by an Israeli court.

Nadia Abu-Shanab, a Palestinian Arab, and Justine Sachs, a Jew – both members of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – were sued by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli NGO, in January under Israel’s 2011 anti-boycott law, which makes it a civil offence to call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against a person or entity because of any perceived affiliation to Israel.

Abu-Shanab and Sachs wrote an open letter to Lorde saying that if the New Zealand singer played the June show it “would be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation”. Lorde later axed the gig, saying she “had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show.”

On Wednesday (10 October), Jerusalem magistrate’s court judge Mirit Fohrer ruled that Sachs and Abu-Shanab must pay ₪15,000 to each of the three young Lorde fans named, who had bought tickets to the planned concert. The suit claims the trio’s “artistic welfare” was harmed by the cancellation, as was their leisure time “and, above all, damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews”, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“This is a precedent-setting ruling according to the boycott law,” says Shurat HaDin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said Thursday. “This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the state of Israel could find themselves liable for damages and need to pay compensation to those hurt by the boycott call, if they’re in Israel or outside it.”

“This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the state of Israel could find themselves liable for damages”

Abu-Shanab and Sachs were also ordered to pay ₪11,000 (US$3,000) in legal fees.

Although Israel and New Zealand have legal agreements that will allow the court of pursue the damages, the defendants have said they will refuse to pay.

Writing on the Spinoff blog, they say: “Our advice from New Zealand legal experts has been clear: Israel has no right to police the political opinions of people across the world. They also continue to believe that this is a stunt of which the sole intention is to intimidate Israel’s critics. We agree but are heartened by their advice.

“We’ve contacted the relevant people in our government in the hope they can make it clear that New Zealand will not stand by and allow Israel to attempt to bully its citizens.”

Darshan-Leitner, however, is confident that won’t be the case. “We will enforce this ruling in New Zealand, and go after their bank accounts until it has been fully realised,” she says.

 


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Market report: Middle East

Live music disappears quickly in times of war and turmoil, and even at the best of times it finds no outlet in parts of the Middle East. But between the music-hungry city of Tel Aviv, the expat-driven markets of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and the dedicated promoters of Lebanon, there are oases of touring opportunity in this complex region.

In the past decade, Dubai and Israel have been the most actively entrepreneurial markets in the Middle East, though both have had their challenges in attempting to balance the limited spending power of a relatively small gig-going population with the cost of bringing in the talent and staging the show.

Promoters in Tel Aviv can be heard to complain that their city is too small a market for the artist fees they face, and, as in so many cities, the lack of a sufficiently large indoor arena keeps much of the major touring traffic to the summer months.

In Dubai, similarly high fees, traditionally combined with the cost of setting up an outdoor venue from scratch on a patch of ground in the venue-poor emirate, have seen a succession of promoters fizzle out, unable to make the numbers work.

“If you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary”

But both Dubai and Tel Aviv find themselves the object of ambitious investment, as the former braces for a clutch of new venues and the latter is identified as a growth prospect by an incoming Live Nation and Ticketmaster operation. Whether these markets are the goldmine those developments might suggest remains to be seen, but improved infrastructure is a good place to start, and both harbour expat wealth and a great, though not inexhaustible enthusiasm for live music.

“Listen, if you are living in the Middle East, concerts and culture are necessary,” says Guy Beser, co-CEO of the newly inaugurated Live Nation Israel, launched in February as a 50:50 deal between the live giant and Beser and Shay Mor Yosef’s Bluestone.

Necessary they may be, but they are not always simple. As you would expect, relative to recorded music, live music contributes a greater share of music industry revenues in the Middle East and North Africa than elsewhere in the world: 90%, compared to around 65% worldwide.

And whereas worldwide nearly a quarter of live music revenues come from event sponsorships, this figure is estimated to be below 10% in the Middle East, leaving promoters heavily reliant on ticket sales, or, as in markets like Abu Dhabi, on occasional state patronage.

 


Read the rest of this feature in issue 70 of IQ Magazine. To subscribe, click here.