We received from Dadi Pudumjee, President of Unima, the information about the El-Khakawati Theater, the Palestine National Theatre in East Jerusalem, who’s recent children’s puppet and theatre festival has been asked to close by the authorities, due to various reasons.Puppeteers in Israel and others, have signed petitions on the net and letters of support against this action. You can download here the UNIMA letter to all, concerning this specific action. As Dadi Pudumjee said, “UNIMA has and will be always for puppeteers, around the world, both in good and difficult times.Do please forward this letter to all our members and puppeteers where ever they may be.”

El-Hakawati Theater
Demonstration in Issawiya, East Jerusalem (Shiraz Grinbaum / Activestills)

Searching at the web, we found this article written by an Israeli journalist and political activist. After writing for the short-lived Palestine Times and for Ha’ir Tel Aviv, he is currently working as the municipal correspondent for Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Ma’ariv, and is a prominent writer at the independent Hebrew website MySay. He was awarded the 2012 Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award for hisseries on the separation wall:

El-Hakawati Theater

A puppet fills one seat in the empty El-Hakawati Theater on June 27, 2013 in East Jerusalem. The theater would have been filled with children and families, but the Israeli Public Security Ministry canceled the annual festival. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

“The 19th annual Palestinian children’s theater festival in the Hakwati theater in East Jerusalem, was due to open on Saturday, June 22, but was blocked by a special warrant issued by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. According to Haaretz’s Amira Hass, the ministry claims that the festival is being held “under the auspices of or sponsored by the Palestinian Authority,” constituting an infringement of the Oslo Accords which “temporarily” bar the PA from the intervening or funding activities within Israel’s official borders (including the annexed East Jerusalem). Festival organizers deny receiving any funds from the PA, and are protesting the shutting down of the highly-anticipated eight-day long cultural event, which was planned to feature Palestinian, Nordic, French and Turkish performers.

El-Hakawati Theater
While speaking with theater director Mohammad Halayka (center), Amos Laor and Osnat Skoblinski paint puppets at el-Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem on June 27, 2013. (photo: Matt Surrusco, +972 Magazine)

According to Hass, “the festival has received funding from the Palestinian Cultural Fund, which is supported by the Norwegian representative office in Ramallah. Private Palestinian companies and a Palestinian non-governmental organization also support the theater.” Theater director Mohammaed Halayka actually told this to both the police and the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), insisting that “the authority doesn’t even have the funding to meet its own payroll.” + read more