Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Av 5764 - August 5, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Living on a Remote Island

by E. Rauchberger

Much has already been said about the inflated salaries paid to the directors of the major theaters in the State of Israel. It continues as if budget cuts, the economic recession and everything the Israeli economy and society has gone through has nothing to do with them.

Many stage actors continue to receive salaries ranging from NIS 30,000 ($6,600) to NIS 80,000 ($17,700) per month. Nor are the directors of the theater companies deprived, choliloh. After all they, too, must live. Yaakov Agmon, director of Habima, scraped by in 2003 with a scant NIS 681,000 ($150,000) and Noam Semel, director of Cameri, eked out a living with a mere NIS 534,000 ($118,000) that same year.

And lest one think this represented a pay cut for them, in fact almost all the members of the respective theater companies made more money in 2003 than in 2002. Some made a little more, some made a lot more.

Nor should one make the mistake of thinking they do not receive state funds or that since their coffers are overflowing they can afford to indulge. In fact the theaters receive tens of millions of shekels, but spend even more and have run up enormous budget deficits. Habima Theater, for instance, is NIS 35 million in the red. That's right: $8 million. Haifa Theater has a budget deficit of NIS 17 million ($4 million). Chan, Cameri, Gesher and Be'er Sheva also have seven-figure debts.

When these figures were published in the press recently the theaters reacted peculiarly, each in its own way. One (Habima) claimed the figures were totally untrue, another (Gesher) claimed they were inaccurate.

The Finance Ministry's economic plan hit everybody in the State of Israel, including the elderly, the unemployed, high- risk children, the handicapped, single-parent families and of course children's allotments. Not a single sector escaped the cuts. Only the members of state-supported theater companies saw salary increases, as if they live on a secluded island.

Yet they don't seem to notice anything is amiss. (Not all stage workers--some actors and stage workers receive reasonable salaries according to normal labor-market standards.) They are convinced they deserve every cent, that their salaries are perfectly reasonable, and what happens on the outside does not have an impact on them. For they are the elite. The cream of the crop. And the elite is different. The cream of the crop must be maintained. At the expense of the weak and the disadvantaged of course.

Absurd? Who cares.

Worker's Day Revisited

A group of nine MKs from different parties recently tabled a proposal called the Worker's Day Bill. A careful look at the bill reveals it essentially seeks to put May Day back on the calendar in the State of Israel, and this time through legislation.

For those who don't remember, the communists used to celebrate May 1st as the day of the workers. Workers in every country under communist rule held marches and parades and various celebrations. It was the day the communists waved the banner of their way of life. Red was the color of the day.

From the early years of the State the Histadrut, the workers' parties and the Communist Party celebrated May Day as well, organizing marches and parades around the country.

With the fall of communism in the early 90s, however, gradually May Day began to fade from the scene. In Israel, as in other countries, May 1st became a day just like any other. No more marches, no more parades, and certainly no longer a day off of work.

Then along came these nine MKs, including one from the Likud, seeking to legislate making one day a year into Worker's Day, on which workers would be allowed to take a day off of work. According to the explanatory material on this unusual bill the day would be designated as an annual day of rest to show esteem for the workingman and workingwoman.

Communism may have died in the former Soviet Union and in various Eastern European countries, the Berlin Wall may have fallen, but in the State of Israel MKs are trying to bring in through the backdoor customs from the communist era as if this is what's missing here and this is what's needed to remedy the social ills plaguing the country.

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