Haredi protest dance in latest jubilee controversy

JERUSALEM — There were problems even as the show was about to go on.

Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations, beset with controversies during the past year, hit another obstacle on the eve of what had been promoted as Independence Day's centerpiece event.

Officials representing the haredi, the fervently religious community, moved to file a petition with the High Court of Justice to block a modern dance performance that they considered immodest from being included in yesterday's scheduled "Jubilee Chimes" celebration in Jerusalem.

Vice President Al Gore was among the dignitaries expected to attend.

At issue was a number by the renowned Batsheva Dance Company, during which the dancers strip down to their underwear.

Jerusalem Deputy Housing Minister Haim Miller said the performance offended the sensitivities of the fervently religious, or haredi, community and should be struck from the program.

Meanwhile, jubilee organizers scrambled to reach a compromise with the artistic director of the performance.

An official from the Prime Minister's Office was also enlisted to try to find a solution.

While the jubilee committee adopted the slogan "Together in Pride, Together in Hope" as the motto for this year's celebrations, the 11th-hour dispute seemed to further underscore the societal rifts that have surfaced around Israel's 50th Independence Day celebrations.

Third Way Knesset member Alex Lubotzky, who is religiously observant, said Wednesday that while he would "lie down in the middle of the road" to prevent artistic censorship, in this instance he urged that all sides reach a compromise.

Lubotzky said that since the performance was to be given at a state-sponsored event, it should be sensitive to all sectors of society.