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In apparent protest, life-size Minister Regev lands in Tel Aviv's culture hub

Statue of Israel Culture Minister Miri Regev in Habima Square in Tel Aviv
i24NEWS
The statue is assumed to be in protest of the minister's 'loyalty-in-culture' bill

A large statue of Israel Culture Minister Miri Regev appeared in a central Tel Aviv square overnight Thursday in apparent protest of the “loyalty in culture bill” she is working to pass through the Knesset.

The piece displays Regev clad in a long white dress staring at herself in a huge mirror. A sign next to the mirror is inscribed in Hebrew and English with the phrase “#InTheHeartOfTheNation.”

Regev has been the target of intense criticism over the legislation with artists and freedom of speech activists widely denouncing the bill.

The statue was placed at Habima square, the site of Israel’s national theater in apparent protest of the minister’s bill which demands “loyalty” from cultural institutions in Israel.

On Monday, the Knesset voted to advance the bill after hours of heated debate.The legislation, has been widely denounced by artists and freedom of speech activists.

Responding to critics who say the law will work to enshrine state censorship in the arts, Regev replied that she had “held up a mirror to Israel’s culture world, a mirror that has revealed the exclusion of entire groups and the arrogance of those who saw themselves as ‘the heart of the nation.”

The bill would give the culture ministries the power to slash subsidies to any institution presenting work that denies Israel's existence as a democratic and Jewish state or that marks the state's independence day as a national day of mourning.

Regev responded to the statue in a post on Facebook Thursday morning, seemingly unfazed by the like-size version of herself and its apparent message.

The minister thanked the artist in her statement and wrote:"In the past three years, I have indeed dealt a great deal in creating a mirror in the face of the Israeli cultural world."

"A mirror that exposed the exclusion of whole populations and the 'patronage' of those who had thought themselves to be 'in the heart of the nation'" she continued.

The minister compared the work, and her role, to that of Snow White: "The principles of cultural justice are what is reflected before my eyes in the face of the legend of Snow White and the immortal saying: 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, what are the ugliest injustices in the city,'" Regev wrote.

The artist was identified as Itay Zalait, the same man behind the golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which appeared in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square in 2016.

"I deal with freedom and freedom of speech," Israeli artist Itay Zalait told i24NEWS shortly after the Tel Aviv municipality toppled the four and a half meter tall gilded statue of the prime minister that he had erected earlier in the day.

"I wanted to test is it possible in Israel in 2016 to say what I want to say and find out if I'm going to be sent to jail or it I could get away with it."

Zalait apparently decided that his test in 2016 proved it was possible to erect a statue of an Israeli leader without being sent to jail, as he struck again Wednesday night.

Zalait told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the Regev sculpture was not an overt protest against the loyalty law.

"This is not a work against one law or another- there are processes that happen and we have to respond to that. One should relate to how he feels. There were people who saw Cinderella and others claimed it was Cinderella's mother" he told Haaretz.

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