Israel Philarmonic Orchestra debuts in Abu Dhabi, first time in Arab country since 1945

  (photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)
(photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)

The Israel Philarmonic Orchestra made its debut in Abu Dhabi last week, marking the first time that it performed in an Arab country since 1945.

The orchestra was invited to participate to the prestigious Abu Dhabi Classics Festival by the Ministry of Culture of the United Arab Emirates and played at the Emirates Palace.

Conductor Lahav Shani led the orchestra in an epic work befitting the grand occasion, Gustav Mahler's powerful "Titan" Symphony No. 1. The Tel Aviv-based ensemble also performed Wolfang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23.

  (credit: SHAI SKIFF) (credit: SHAI SKIFF)

Israel and the UAE  normalized their relations with the Abraham Accords in 2020. Since then, the cooperation between the two countries has grown stronger both in the political and economical fields and in the cultural one. The performance of Israel’s national anthem Hatikva at the beginning of the concert embodied the new era of friendship between the nations.

Founded in 1936 by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, the orchestra included dozens of Jewish musicians fleeing antisemitism and persecution in Europe. In the following years, world-acclaimed conductor Arturo Toscani led the ensemble twice. In 1945, the orchestra went on tour in Egypt and performed at the Cairo Opera House. Seventy-seven years later, it played again in an Arab country.

"Our performance in an Arab country is perhaps a small step on the way to what we all wish for - peace,” Shani said according to Ynet. “It may be a small step, but it is certainly heartwarming. Music is a language of communication, a universal language that connects people, beyond words. And this connection that it produces is our humble contribution."

Born in 1989, Shani was appointed as the artistic director of the orchestra in 2020. He is considered one of the world’s most talented young conductors.

  (credit: SHAI SKIFF) (credit: SHAI SKIFF)

UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Culture and Youth Minister Noura Al Kaabi, Environmental Affairs Minister Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri and Advisor to the President Zaki Nusseibeh all attended the concert. Israel’s first lady Michal Herzog also flew to Abu Dhabi for the occasion. She attended the event together with the country’s Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek.

"This is an ongoing wonderful friendship, and I am sure that we will participate in many more cultural exchange events like this,” Al Kaabi said according to Ynet.

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