$26 million face-lift adds grandeur

The stage was set in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1905: Young Jews eager to explore their lost identity and culture founded Habima (The Stage), the first-ever Hebrew-language theater. It was a huge milestone. The theater company then moved to Moscow and faced continual persecution from successive governments.

The new Habima Theater opened with fanfare earlier this year. photo/israel 21c

Over the years, Habima went through various incarnations, and by the late 1920s, the troupe moved to Israel and finally settled in Tel Aviv.

Now it has an even grander home, thanks to a $26-million renovation  along with new public space. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality contributed $15 million toward the five-year refurbishing project.

Habima was Israel’s first theater to adopt the revived language uniting immigrants from across the diaspora.

“It is the center of culture in Israel,” says Habima spokesperson Osnat Chen. “It is the national theater of Israel, and it is also the first Hebrew theater for artists, even the foundation for the beginning of the Hebrew language.”

About 80 actors and 120 staff members work to support Habima’s ongoing productions, which are open to the public, including schoolchildren from the central and peripheral regions of Israel. — israel 21c