Abigail Klein Leichman
December 24, 2023

Many Israeli businesses and organizations are going to volunteer on farms, visit wounded victims of the war, and bring supplies and cheer to evacuees of the communities of the south devastated by Hamas attacks on October 7 and evacuees of the north in danger of attack from Hezbollah.

One of these groups is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Now in its 87th season, the IPO had to postpone its October and November performances. Using their downtime to do good, the musicians formed trios and quartets, performing around the country for evacuees and wounded citizens.

Israel Philharmonic musicians play instruments for healing
An Israel Philharmonic musician interacting with children in an evacuation hotel. Photo courtesy of IPO

“We believe music has an important role, even in these difficult days,” said Yair Mashiach, secretary-general of the IPO. “The sounds of the IPO are part of our national resilience and a sign of our continued existence.” 

Israel Philharmonic musicians play instruments for healing
Musicians from the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra seen performing next to lit candles in an event at Habima Square, Tel Aviv, in memory of Hamas victims, October 22, 2023. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

In one especially moving performance at Soroka Medical Center, musicians played for Avida Bachar, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri. His wife and son were killed by Hamas terrorists and he sustained a severe wound necessitating the amputation of his leg.  

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Recognizing an urgent need for new digital content, particularly programs for children, IPO Music Director Lahav Shani led the orchestra in recording a series of musical programs to be made available for free to every child in Israel’s education system.

On October 22, the IPO gave a “Salute to Israel” concert — broadcast live in an empty hall with only the images of the Hamas hostages “looking” at the musicians from the seats in the first rows. 

The musicians performed Israel’s national anthem, Paul Ben-Haim’s “Fanfare to Israel” and Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, “Eroica.” The concert received more than 150,000 views in Israel and around the world. 

“I ask myself, how is it possible to contain both this sense of distress and anguish alongside hope and yearning for life?” Shani said by way of introduction. 

“In our daily life, this seems almost impossible. The grief and anger are so strong that it is difficult to feel anything else. But it is at these moments that music has incredible strength. Music can contain and reflect all our feelings, side by side.”

Tomatoes and avocados

Even though musicians’ hands are their livelihood, IPO members pitched in to volunteer for time-sensitive harvesting work, supporting farmers who are extremely shorthanded due to the war. 

Instead of holding million-dollar instruments, they held tomatoes and avocados, to keep the economy going. 

IPO assistant principal bassoonist Uzi Shalev picking tomatoes. Photo courtesy of American Friends of Israel Philharmonic
IPO assistant principal bassoonist Uzi Shalev picking tomatoes. Photo courtesy of American Friends of Israel Philharmonic

On November 14, 12 days before some Israeli hostages were released, artist Nadav Barnea and a crew of 200 volunteers set up 239 mannequins on the balcony of Charles Bronfman Auditorium concert hall in Tel Aviv, the home of the IPO, along with an illuminated sign that reads, “BRING THEM HOME.” The unique exhibit received sponsorship from the Culture Division and DEVEK of the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality.

Now that the IPO has resumed its season schedule, it is offering free admission for its Children’s Philharmonic Series to displaced families from the Gaza border communities and the north. 

For more information, click here.

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