Acclaimed Palestinian theatre in Jerusalem risks closure
By Luke Baker
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Palestinian National Theatre, for three decades the leading performing arts and cultural centre for Arabs in Jerusalem, is facing potential closure after running up large municipal debts, its director said on Friday.
Known as "Al Hakawati" (The Storyteller), the theatre has amassed unpaid bills of $150,000 over the past five years, with money owed to city hall, to the national insurance fund and to the local Israeli electricity company.
Opened in 1984 in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, Al Hakawati has received international acclaim for its performances and its training of young actors. It often puts on productions with groups from the United States, Britain and France.
"We are the only professional theatre in East Jerusalem," director Amer Khalil told Reuters. "I hope we can manage to get at least half the money we owe by Sunday or Monday, otherwise we will be closed down."
Adnan Al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem told Reuters he expected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would step in and prevent the theatre's closure. "The President has given orders and the money needed will be given. On Monday the issue will be resolved and over," he said.
The theatre operates as an NGO and has received donations from Europe, the United States and others in the past. Khalil said donors and friends had been calling and he hoped they would pledge enough to pay off the debts.
There has been friction between Al Hakawati and Israel in the past. In 2008, Israeli police deployed at the theatre to stop it holding a festival entitled "Jerusalem, the Arab Cultural Capital for 2009".
Israel refers to Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible" capital and regards the city as a leading centre of Jewish culture and tradition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem - captured and occupied by Israel in 1967 - as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Continued...