Young and talented violinists from Israel and around the world are here to hone their art under the tutorship of internationally renowned musicians as Keshet Eilon hosts its annual International Master Course for violinists. Traditionally, the course is held at Kibbutz Eilon in the picturesque Western Galilee, and this year it began on July 25 and runs through August 13. Maestro Shlomo Mintz will offer his tutelage, as will Itzhak Rashkovsky of London's Royal College of Music, Michael Vaiman, Cihat Askin from Istanbul, Vadim Gluzman from Israel/USA and Eduard Grach from Moscow. The program features individual lessons, master classes and various concerts by students and teachers, many of whom are performing artists, and it will culminate in a gala concert at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center August 12. Attending the lessons and master classes proves an educational experience not only for students, but also for music lovers. Music cannot be learned from books, and the experienced teachers help pass on the 400-year-old art of violin playing. Not by chance, Ida Haendel, one of the past century's leading violinists, comes to Keshet Eilon every year to meet the young musicians, no matter the security situation. "This is one of the places where the cultural tradition of the world is being preserved," she says. But while the renowned faculty members who contribute their knowledge and names to the course are in the limelight, behind the scenes is man whose name appears rather rarely in the media - the managing director, Gilad Shiba. A kibbutz music teacher and the son of the kibbutz's founders - and founders of the state, for that matter - Shiba helps the things run smoothly. He was even awarded the 2007 Rosenblum Prize for his activity on behalf of Keshet Eilon. The award is granted annually by the city of Tel Aviv, supported by the Hanna and Gottlieb Rosenblum Foundation, for outstanding contribution in the fields of theater, art, acting and music. KESHET EILON started 18 years ago as a modest project to support young immigrant violinists from the USSR, giving them an opportunity to study for a fortnight in a serene rural atmosphere. Over the years, the course has grown into an internationally recognized master class, and fundraising played an important part in its development. Among many other activities, the tireless Shiba traveled to the USA to bring in financial help, quite often with his father Dov Shiba, who once served as a kibbutz movement representative there and was banned during McCarthy era. "My father revived his old connections with Jewish communities while giving me fundraising lessons on the road," recollects Shiba. "One should have seen the late Dov, tall and... strolling decisively along Fifth Avenue with a stick in his hand," smiles Gluzman, once a Keshet Eilon student, now an internationally acclaimed violinist. Today, Keshet Eilon enjoys support from societies in the USA and Europe and various other donors, but the course is far from settling into a routine. On the contrary, now maybe more than ever, two topics are on Shiba's agenda - Israeli youth and the Galilee. "Education in general - and music education in particular - in our country leave a lot to be desired," says Shiba. "And if we don't care about it, nobody else will. Also, Galilee demands cultural development." This was the main reason behind the decision to build a new and modern campus, which will operate not only during the summer course, but throughout the year. The campus will include students' dormitories, faculty accommodation units, classes, practice and teaching rooms, as well as an auditorium. The construction project is ready, the land will be leased from the kibbutz and the money is being raised; a special concert of Keshet Eilon students at Carnegie Hall this autumn should help. Until now, the course used various kibbutz facilities for its needs. "But following the growth of the course, as well as... privatization, it has become extremely complicated," admits Shiba. "The campus will host several dozen high school students who will combine intensive musical training with general studies. We make it a point that it will be not just another ivory tower - the kids will be well aware of the life behind the fence the campus." All of the activities during the course are open to the public, some for free and some for nominal fees, with lodging facilities available. One can even combine nature trips with the cultural program. For more information and reservations call (04) 985-8191 or (04) 985-8131. For the detailed program visit the site www.keshetei.org.il.