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Miri Regev, call off your culture war

A message to the minister who says she'll work to rectify the sins of what she sees as Israel's cultural elite

I, Esti Zakheim, am a proud Tel Avivian. My mother was born on Ben Zion Boulevard, and my brothers and I were born in the heart of Tel Aviv and most definitely not in a “bubble.”

Grandma Esther and Grandpa Moshe arrived from Odessa in 1919 on the first ship of the Third Aliya. My mother’s uncle was the painter Yitzhak Frenkel (a.k.a Frenel), who arrived with his brother, my grandfather, on the same ship, and lived in Safed and painted the landscapes of Eretz Israel, the Sea of ​​Galilee, Safed.

Grandpa Moses built Tel Aviv. He established the prisoners’ welfare association, Yad LaAsir. He was co-founder of the Magen David Adom emergency medical services.

My grandmother lost the twins she was carrying when she was kicked in the stomach during the riots in Jaffa. She lost a six-month-old son, Ariel, to diphtheria and an 18-month-old daughter, Sarah, to dysentery.

They came young and penniless, with nothing but the Zionist dream. And they made sure to educate their two surviving girls, to teach them the importance of reading and culture. My mother, Varda Frankel Zakheim, is a card-carrying member of the Likud Central Committee. And guess what, Miri: My mother goes to plays and concerts, to cultural events on Saturdays, to dance performances, to museum exhibits, and her favorite foods are falafel, humus and baklava.

We belonged to the library on Karmiya Street, which I would visit twice a week to take out books for all of us. Despite the political, social and economic differences in our family, we all love to read! And we go to cultural events! Even though I’m a leftist, my mother never threw me out of the family. Even though I cheer for Hapoel Tel Aviv, my brother and cousin — fanatic Maccabi fans both — have not kicked me out of the family.

My late brother, Dan Zakheim, was a performance and video installation artist, and the whole family traipsed after him to all kinds of dicey dives and joints all over the country to see him perform — although most of them did not understand or did not like his art.

My brother’s wife is Greek. My cousin is married to an Iraqi, my other cousin to a Libyan, so all of us and our children have already fulfilled the vision of the Ingathering of the Exiles and the melting pot, and we enjoy the variety and the diversity.

And so, Miri, I’m not prepared to let your populist aggression wipe out everything we so painstakingly built here over the years, this intricate human tapestry. Instead of fighting, raise money for everyone! Support culture by everyone for everyone!

I assure you there is room for everyone.

Esti Zakheim is an actress working in theater, TV and film.

About the Author
Esti Zakheim is an actress working in theater, TV and film.