Operation Fiddler on the (Kremlin) Roof

IDF band performs in Red Square, before tens of thousands, for 1st time.

kremlin 88 (photo credit: )
kremlin 88
(photo credit: )
If all goes off without a hitch, it will be one of the IDF's most meticulously planned and executed large-scale missions beyond Israel's borders, ever. If performed well, it will receive thunderous applause; but failure could ignite a diplomatic scandal with a resurgent superpower. It involves flying 45 specialist IDF soldiers thousands of kilometers away from Israel's borders, together with their unique equipment and sensitive instruments, where they will face-off against not one, but dozens of similar elite units in a mission spanning an entire week. For the first time in its existence, the IDF marching band is to parade in Moscow's Red Square on Saturday night in front of tens of thousands of people as part of the Russian capital's annual Moscow Day celebration. The band, led and conducted by Lt.-Col. Michael Ya'aran will perform "Fiddler on the Roof," "Shir Hamachar," the IDF anthem "Tomorrow" by Naomi Shemer, and "Hava Nagila." It will march in the shape of a menora, and form the word "shalom." Moscow is over 800 years old, and every September 5 the municipality and the Kremlin organize a massive bash to celebrate the city's power and prestige. Red Square is the traditional parade grounds of the Russian armed forces, having hosting the Red Army victory parade in June of 1945. In May 2008 Russia held its annual Victory Day parade marking the defeat of Nazi Germany. This Saturday, the IDF band will join the military orchestras of France, England, India, Scotland, Italy and Kazakhstan, as well as 15 military bands from Russia's most elite army units, which each have their own marching bands. The Russian Ministry of Defense contacted its Israeli counterpart and asked if the IDF would be interested in participating. Organizing the trip for the 45 Israeli soldiers took on the characteristic of a Special Forces operation far from Israel's borders, requiring months of logistical planning and diplomatic negotiations. Not considered a vital military mission, the IDF had to find partners to foot the large bill to fly its marching band over to Russia. It turned to Keren Hayesod - United Israel Appeal, who raised the necessary tens of thousands of dollars to fly the soldiers and their equipment on El Al to Moscow. Before their arrival on Tuesday, Keren Hayesod had to ensure that the hotel kitchen was kosher. And since the parade itself and all the rehearsals leading up to it were taking place in Red Square, the IDF soldiers would have to be fed kosher food on site as well. Noting that the IDF band required special attention, Russian authorities decided that all 1,200 soldiers taking part in the event, including their own orchestra members, would eat kosher-style food in the Gum [Gosudarstvenny Universalny Magazin), the former Soviet State Department Store hall opposite Lenin's Mausoleum, instead of having the IDF men and women eat alone at a separate location. Kashrut adaptations will be made to the existing kitchens, where meat will be separated from milk, and there will be no pork offered. Some IDF soldiers will receive badatz kosher food. Since the actual celebrations begin Saturday evening at 20:00, all bands have been ordered to report to Red Square several hours earlier. (Military punctuality is non-negotiable when parading in front of the Kremlin). But since Shabbat officially ends in Moscow at 21:10 this Saturday night, the Moscow Police will escort the Israeli bus from the hotel where the IDF band is staying all the way to Red Square, with a special plan to plough through the capital's infamously congested roads. The IDF unit will be standing at attention in the hotel lobby, in full regalia and with instruments loaded on the bus, waiting for Shabbat to come out and their police escort to arrive. At 21:10, and not one minute earlier, they will set off for the Kremlin through some of the busiest roads in the world. The Russian capital is characterized by its slow-moving - if at-all moving - traffic. This is where the plan rises and falls, as everything depends on the ability of Moscow's police to get the Israeli bus to the parade in time for the finale, which will feature the IDF band. Should they get there on time, the band will hit its stride as the parade reaches its crescendo. Keren Hayesod's representative in Russia, Ronnie Vinnikov, says the level of cooperation between Russia, Israel and his organization went "beyond any expectations. It was a pleasure to work together for the sake of our two nations." "The invitation speaks of the strong relationship between the Israeli and Russian militaries and defense establishments," said Maj. Oded Nahari, head of the General Staff Ceremonies Department. He added that the IDF Orchestra performed once in the 1990s in Russia but that the Saturday night performance would be the first time that the band marches through Red Square. The Russian Military Orchestra participated in an international military march held in Israel last year in conjunction with the country's 60th anniversary. Asked if there were any security concerns before approving the trip, Nahari said, "We don't deal with security but with music." For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs