Israelis Shrug Off Health Regulations at Impromptu Concert in Tel Aviv

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Maya Cohen

With little social distancing, an estimated crowd of 3,000 people attend a concert on May 21 at Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Some 3,000 people attended an event billed as a city-backed protest against the Israeli government for ongoing shutdown of live events.

In brazen defiance of health regulations, an estimated crowd of 3,000 people danced and sang along to Israeli musicians on Thursday (May 21) at a concert in Tel Aviv that was among the first large live music gatherings since the global industry shut down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Over a dozen well-known Israeli acts, including alternative rocker Aviv Geffen and pop diva Rita, performed at Charles Clore public park as part of a music event semantically and legally referred to as “Behind the Scenes: an Assembly of Solidarity.” The event wasn’t billed as an official concert. Rather, the performers exploited a loophole in Israel’s health regulations, which permits contained protests.

Attendees of the event were permitted entrance to the park wearing face masks and obligated to keep six feet apart. But that proved tough to enforce. Most people appeared initially to spread out throughout the park lawns but soon drew closer to the stage and did not obey health regulations, according to video of the event and two people who attended. Hundreds of people did not wear masks and stood side by side.

The cultural protest event was staged in support of crew members who rely solely on live music concerts for their livelihood. It had the backing of the Israeli Police and the city of Tel Aviv. Israeli entrepreneurs Inbar and Marius Nacht organized the impromptu event, which was only days in the planning and formed a fund to financially support some 170,000 unemployed industry workers.

The promoters paid all staff members involved, while the artists, which also included veteran rocker Shalom Hanoch, announced they would forego their fees.

"It is so moving to see the thousands who came here, it was such a strange and psychotic period but we're here to support our friends and wonderful crew members, not knowing where we'd be without them," said Geffen. “I met with the new Minister [of Culture and Sports], who realizes the magnitude of distress and it appears live shows will soon re-start and music will return to Israel, because music is meaning. Music is our prayer.”

With more than 16,680 reported coronavirus cases and 279 deaths, Israel has been gradually reopening over the past three weeks. Since last Sunday, almost the entire school system was reinstated, shopping centers and synagogues were reopened in accordance with health regulations, with restaurants set to follow next week. Live entertainment, including pubs and theaters, remain closed, which has led to protests like Thursday’s event.

Newly appointed Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Tropper has been meeting with artists and industry officials in hopes of securing a thought-out exit strategy from lockdowns for music and entertainment fields.

The coronavirus “has left many singers, actors and backstage workers with no income and uncertainty about when they'll be able to earn a living again,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said on stage at the event. “This is the cry of an entire industry that needs answering. The responsibility lies first and foremost with the Israeli government and I’m appealing from here — Don't forget the culture!”

 

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עצרת הזדהות עם תעשיית המוסיקה

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