Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

The Cultural Loyalty Law: Back to the Future

circa 1970:  Israeli statesman and former prime minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion (1886 - 1973), who was committed to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
circa 1970: Israeli statesman and former prime minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion (1886 - 1973), who was committed to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

The author imagines how grant applicants might be evaluated in the future.

The following is a imaginary scenario of an application committee from the Israel Ministry of Culture and Sport evaluating grant submissions. Their evaluations are based on the general principles of the Cultural Loyalty Law:

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1) Art may not deny that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic country. 2) Art may not incite racism, violence, or terror, as well as extreme political positions. 3) Art may not support an armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel by an enemy state or a terror group. 4) All Art must not mark Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning. 5) All Art may not depict or create  any act of destruction or physical degradation of the flag or any state symbol.

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Letter from the Secretary, Grants Allocations, Israel Ministry of Culture and Sports

To the Arts Jury Committee, Chairwoman, Miri Regev, Minster of Culture and Sport. The please consider the recent submissions from Israeli English language poets and writers,  who seek support and funding for their work.  Our office would appreciate a verdict by the Arts Jury Committee as soon as possible. Thank you.  Sincerely, Evelyn Price

(two months later….)

To Grants Allocations, Israel Ministry of Culture and Sports (Attn: Evelyn Price) Dear Ms. Price, The following are the final decisions of the Arts Committee regard recent submissions by English language Israeli writers.  Please implement these decisions as soon as possible, including notifying all applications. Thank you, The Arts Jury Committee.

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*Case 1 sample: “Terror just before death, Shoulders torn, shot from helicopters, the boy tortured with the telephone generator, ‘I felt sorry for him, and blew his head off with a shotgun’. These instants become crystals, particles the grass cannot dissolve…Therefore we will have to go far away to atone for the sufferings of the string-chested and the small rice-fed ones, quivering in the helicopter like wild animals, shot in the chest, taken back to be questioned”

Verdict: FUNDING DENIED; Reason: Expresses indignation at noble acts to defend our country and freedom, exaggerating the suffering of our enemies, ultimately supporting armed struggle or acts of terror against Israel.

*Case 2 sample: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.”

Verdict: FUNDING DENIED; Reason: Clearly stating extreme political positions, including the imminent radicalization of Bethlehem’s non-Jewish citizens.

*Case 3 sample “In gorges, dragons voice age-old explanations. In pools ten hundred feet deep, you hear them.  Cruel waves keep strict accounts, drinking blood to nurture children and grandchildren.”

Verdict: FUNDING DENIED; Reason: Bringing up Jewish Blood Libel in Israel is considered a direct act of terror.

*Case 4 sample: “Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history, Jews second-hand, slightly damaged, at bargain prices.  And the eye yearns toward Zion all the time.  And all the eyes of the living and the dead are cracked like eggs on the rim of the bowl, to make the city puff up rich and fat.  Jerusalem is full of tired Jews, always goaded on again for holidays, for memorial days, like circus bears dancing on aching legs.  What does Jerusalem need? It doesn’t need a mayor, it needs a ring-master…

Verdict: FUNDING DENIED; Reason: Degrading of our eternal capital Jerusalem; Degrading of our “memorial days” (including Independence Day);  Degrading the role of Mayor of Jerusalem.

*Case 5 sample:  “The Emperor of Ice Cream.  Call the roller of big cigars, the muscular one. and bid him whip in kitchen cups concupiscent curds… Let be be finale of seen. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream…”

Verdict: FUNDING POSTPONED until further investigation; Reason: The writer is clearly making fun of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , who loves both cigars and ice cream.  However, the public’s memory may have faded, and hence this might be less an insult.

Case 6 sample: “The Martyr Poets–did not tell–But wrought their Pang in syllable–That when their mortal name be numb–Their mortal fate–encourage Some–The Martyr Painters–never spoke–Bequeathing–rather–to their Work–That when their conscious fingers cease–Some seek in Art–the Art of Peace–”

Verdict: FUNDING GRANTED, on condition that the artist explain the use of the word “Martyr” to the committee.

Case 7 sample: “Deep in my heart I have resolved to spurn the garden of Eden in favor of Hell, for there I shall find dripping honey and nectar: all the graceful does and lustful ladies.”

Verdict: FUNDING DENIED, due to an extreme anti-religious position that may trigger violent protests.

Original Sources of Cases 1-7

1) from “Driving through Minnesota during the Hanoi Bombings”, by Robert Bly;  2) from “The Second Coming”, by William Butler Yeats; 3) from “Laments of the Gorges”, Meng Chaio (751-814 a.d.) T’ang Dynasty, China; 4)”Jerusalem is Full of Used Jews” by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch.; 5) “The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens. 6) “Poem 544”, by Emily Dickenson; 7) Immanuel of Rome (c.1261-c.1332), famous Jewish writer, translated from Hebrew by Ted Carmi.

Pictured below (from top to bottom): Yehuda Amichai, William Butler Yeats and Emily Dickinson

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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