Saying Farewell to Zubin Mehta, Israel’s Legendary Conductor

July 17 2019

On Sunday, Zubin Mehta conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for what might be the last time, although his retirement does not become official until the fall. Benjamin Kerstein recounts Mehta’s career:

Mehta, the first non-Israeli citizen to win the Israel Prize and the conductor most widely identified with the Jewish state, was born in India in 1936. . . . By age twenty-five, Mehta had performed with several major European orchestras, but was at an impasse in his career. . . . In 1961, his association with Israel began when he received a telegram from the Palestinian Philharmonic Orchestra, the old name for the Israel Philharmonic, which for some reason had never been changed in official correspondence: a major conductor had fallen ill, and Mehta was recruited.

He instantly fell in love with Israel. What he called the “organized mess” he found in the country reminded him of his childhood home in Bombay. In Israel, he said, “People always speak at the same time, everyone gives advice, everyone has a firm opinion. When you open the window in Bombay, you see at the same time 5,000 people.” He said he felt, “at home.”

Mehta quickly put the orchestra through its paces, conducting a series of works that had never been performed in Israel before. . . . He was overseas when the Six-Day War broke out in 1967. Mehta canceled concerts in Paris and Budapest and flew to Tel Aviv with the help of the Israeli ambassador in Rome, who managed to get him onto an ammunition-laden cargo plane. Mehta made the journey, he said, to “stand by the state and my musicians.”

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Classical music, Israel & Zionism, Israeli music, Six-Day War

 

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform