PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 27)
Music triumphed over politics as a sellout crowd of 15,000 people gathered here over the weekend to celebrate Israel’s 50th anniversary.
The jubilee event, titled “Hear, O Israel” and expected to be the largest in the country, featured a powerful program of classical music performed jointly by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.
Top billing at the Jan. 24 program also went to soprano Kathleen Battle, violinist Sarah Chang, the crooner Tony Bennett and Achinoam Nini, the popular Israeli singer known as Noa.
Actors Leonard Nimoy, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry Orbach and journalist Morley Safer provided narrative to the evening.
A live satellite hookup with Independence Hall in Tel Aviv featured a brief appearance by Natan Sharansky, the Israeli trade and industry minister – – Philadelphia’s Jewish community was among the first to work for Sharansky’s release when he was a Soviet prisoner of conscience.
The event, billed as non-political and non-religious, kept mostly to its course. However, the memory of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was invoked several times throughout the evening.
Tribute was paid twice to Rabin’s widow, Leah, who was in attendance, once by the announcer and a second time by Dreyfuss, who has actively promoted the peace process launched by Rabin’s husband.
In contrast, there was no mention of the current Israeli government, except to recognize the presence of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Eliahu Ben- Elissar.