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The Israeli President’s speech in honor of Zubin Mehta’s 50 years cooperation with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra
18th July 2011

© Yossi Zligr 

Zubin and Nancy Mehta,
Distinguished guests,
Dearest Zubin,
You have proven that an almost invisible baton can conquer the hearts of people better than guns.
To paraphrase Isaiah: you have shown that you can beat swords into batons and spears into violins.
You arrived here from the depths of India as a young talent and you became the master of our most significant cultural institution, the Philharmonic, capturing the hearts in Israel, and for Israel.
You didn’t come to a calm country, but to a state- in –the- making defending herself against blasting shells;
to a people of prayers and hard-workers trying to transform wilderness into a blossoming garden.
To a nation trying to gather scattered exiles and rebuild an old heritage; and build a new and better place for themselves and their neighbours.
At a time when inner light competed with outside darkness to a land filled with hope, and empty of resources.
You became a builder of its culture and a carrier of its hope.
It is impossible to imagine that Israel without its Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Philharmonic without Zubin Mehta.
Dearest Zubin,
In five decades you became part of us, and we became part of your inspiration.
You brought pure love to the life in Israel, to its people, to its music.
And it returns to you with profound appreciation from your large and thankful audiences.
Your sense of justice, your moving aspiration for peace, Your commitment to equality between people made music tear down many walls.
It has spurred unforgettable monumental concerts in Jerusalem and in Nazareth, in the ancient amphitheatre in Caesarea, in the new Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv, in New York, in Warsaw. On the border between Israel and Lebanon, in Beer Sheva, Bethlehem, and Berlin.
You shared with us the most difficult moments.
With the start of the Six Day War, you hitched a ride with an EL AL cargo plane, sitting in between boxes of ammunition sent to soldiers on the front line.
You stayed in the Philharmonic’s guest house for the duration of the war.
You insisted on performing with the Philharmonic during the Yom Kippur War for soldiers on the front line, elating their ears with the sounds of music, to reduce the noise of bullets.
During the Golf War you stayed in the bombarded city of Tel Aviv, conducting the orchestra.
You stood by this country when others were hesitant to support it.
Your zeal for music elated people, near and far.
Your music became a message, a light upon audiences all around the world.
Under your baton, music became more effective than diplomacy; You have shown that music can express feeling more than words.
In music, there is no sound for hatred.
No call to kill.
No place for discrimination.
No room for disharmony.
Music is an anthem of peace between men and amongst nations.
Music is complete, but not necessarily completing.
The Unfinished Symphony is one of the greatest.
The same is with people.
We have achieved much, yet we did not complete our task.
I share with you a rare optimism, namely preferring an imperfect peace rather than a perfect war.
Dearest Zubin,
I commend you on your indispensable contribution to the State of Israel, its people, its search for peace, and its love for music.
I thank you for introducing harmony at our home, and hope for peace in our vicinity.
You were appointed by the Philharmonic as a conductor for life.
We shall pray that your life will be extended without limits.
It may happen because you are already a legend.
I wish the Philharmonic, the jewel in the crown of Israeli culture, many more years of cooperation with its conductor, enriching our life with the magic of music.

Thank you.
Shimon Perez