Jerusalem’s Pluralistic Community Has A Right To Exist, Too
The NGO Bar Kayama appealed to Jerusalem’s District Court this week, along with a group of artists, requesting that the court instruct the Jerusalem Municipality to approve Barbur Gallery’s ongoing operations in their established location in the neighborhood of Nachlaot. The petition was submitted by ACRI attorneys Avner Pinchuk and Dan Yakir.
Barbur was established as a community gallery in 2005 by graduates of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and subsequently earned widespread recognition and support from the Ministry of Culture and the Jerusalem Municipality. The gallery integrates contemporary and fine arts exhibitions with community activities in cooperation with residents of the neighborhood and the city. Among other things, the gallery hosts programming for young people, the elderly, and those with special needs, along with lectures, film screenings, cultural performances, and parlor seminars.
In 2015, the Jerusalem Municipality considered vacating the gallery and opening a kindergarten in its place, yet following a public outcry, the mayor decided to find another solution for the children, and promised that the gallery would continue to operate for the city and its residents. Ever since, however, there has been a complete reversal in the position held by municipal officials, who have since opposed events related to politically controversial topics that took place in the gallery.
Against this backdrop, the municipality issued an eviction order against the gallery, which was suspended after the two parties agreed to the court’s proposal that the gallery submit a new application to the municipality, requesting allocation of the space. The gallery submitted a detailed and thorough request, including recommendations, op-eds, and testimonies from artists, experts, and hundreds of residents. Nonetheless, the request was rejected outright, without addressing any of the content whatsoever, on the previous grounds that the municipality wants to open a kindergarten in the building.
The appellants claim that the decision to close the gallery is an outcome of a censorship and silencing campaign, and that it derives from ulterior motives, violating freedom of expression and the right to equality. Furthermore, the city’s residents who visit the gallery – Jews, Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, and secular individuals – do not share the same practices or perspectives, yet together they create a “pluralistic community that constitutes a minority that may be going extinct in the city of Jerusalem, but also has a right to exist.” The least that could be expected from the municipality is that it seriously consider the request, taking into account the gallery’s significant contribution to the city and its residents – and certainly not decide to close the gallery on previously discussed and rejected grounds that are only reemerging due to controversy around the gallery’s freedom of expression.
Appeal no. 22371-02-20
attorneys Avner Pinchuk and Dan Yakir
For further information (Hebrew)