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As Isaac Stern Fiddles, Another Missile Fizzles

February 25, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The only casualty of a lone Scud missile fired into Israel on Saturday night was Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto.

It was being performed by American virtuoso Isaac Stern when an air raid alert interrupted a concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta.

Stern who was winding up an unscheduled concert tour of Israel which he undertook as a gesture of solidarity with the Jewish state, left the stage briefly with the entire IPO company to get their gas masks.

But he returned alone a few moments later without a mask and took up fiddle and bow to give a solo rendition of a Bach Adagio not on the program while the alert continued. His performance captured the hearts of his listeners, who wore gas masks throughout the piece.

The concert was one of the first given since the Gulf war began. The orchestra, which began concertizing again last week under the baton of Mehta, has still not returned to its home base at Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium.

Saturday night’s audience at the Jerusalem Theater, which included Defense Minister Moshe Arens, had donned their masks on instructions from the theater manager when the alert sounded. The concertgoers breathed a collective sigh of relief when Arens, who had left briefly to speak to his office by telephone, returned calmly to his seat.

Members of the audience, protected by their masks, listened raptly to one of the world’s greatest violinists, who had sought out a concert here at this time out of feelings of kinship with Israel.

Stern ended the concert with an encore piece by Fritz Kreisler and was then rushed to Ben-Gurion Airport for his flight home to New York.

Saturday night’s missile was the 37th fired at Israel since the Persian Gulf war began five weeks ago. The Israel Defense Force announced it had landed somewhere in central Israel, setting a brush fire. No one was injured and no serious damage was done.

Like all previous Scud missiles, it carried a conventional warhead.

Television viewers later saw a fire burning in an open field surrounded by fire engines and other emergency vehicles.

The Scud missile was launched about eight minutes before 7 p.m. local time, the missed deadline for Iraq’s compliance with the U.S.-led ultimatum to start evacuating Kuwait.

The massive allied ground assault ensued shortly afterward.

As the Gulf war enters what many believe will be its final phase, Israelis remain glued to their radios. But otherwise, life has returned almost to normal.

Kindergarten and elementary school classes were held Sunday, after late-night consultations between the Education Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the civil defense authorities.

The IDF is keeping a close watch on developments in the Gulf region and in neighboring Jordan. But the level of alert is no higher than it was before the ground offensive, the IDF said.

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