Musical memories

The University of Tel Aviv Cancer Research Center offers a tribute to the life of pioneer public relations woman Dalia Meroz, who died just over a year ago of ovarian cancer.

dalia meroz 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
dalia meroz 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Each year around 26,000 Israelis contract cancer, and around 15,000 do not survive. The global figures are, of course, far larger.
According to Prof. Nadir Arber, in 2014 there will be 14.1 million new cases of cancer, of whom 8.2 million will not make to the end of the year. That is up from 12.8 million and 7.6 million, respectively, in 2008.
Those are statistics that Arber, who heads the Tel Aviv University Cancer Research Center, would very much like to change, and that is also the thinking behind the show that will take place at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv this Thursday. The event is both a tribute to the life of pioneer public relations woman Dalia Meroz, who died just over a year ago of ovarian cancer, as well as a fund-raiser for the research center. “We want to raise funds for the research center, because the research of today is the treatment of tomorrow,” Arber states succinctly.
The confluence of helping the center and commemorating Meroz’s life is a natural one, although Arber notes that Meroz is a case in point which he is very keen to bring to the public’s attention. “Dalia was a patient of mine and it is a great pity she did not come to me when she should have,” he says. “She was a wonderful woman. Early detection of cancer is one of the most important tools we have in treating people for cancer. When Dalia came to me she was okay, but she didn’t come back. It is important to do the tests once a year.”
A top-notch cast of artists has been lined up for the show, which starts at 8:30 p.m., including singer-songwriter Shlomi Shaban, comedian Israel Katorza and mentalist Lior Suchard. One of the most emotive spots of the show will be a first time performance of a song written by lyricist, translator and TV and radio presenter Ehud Manor, shortly before he died of cancer in 2005, called “Kirvat Elohim” (Divine Closeness). Manor’s lyrics were set to music by Etzi Tal, Meroz’s son-in-law.
The evening will be emceed by radio and TV personalities, husband-and-wife team Guy Meroz – Dalia’s son – and Orly Vilnai.
The marriage of a Dalia Meroz memorial event and music is a natural one, as is the location of the show. Among her many musical clients was the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and she acted as the IPO’s spokeswoman for 17 years. Meroz was an ardent lover of classical music from childhood, when her father took from her from their kibbutz to IPO concerts in Tel Aviv, and was a great fan of conductor Zubin Mehta in particular.
When she took over the role of IPO spokeswoman in 1994 Mehta noted that she was the only person who could fully represent the orchestra’s interests. Meroz left the job in 2011. In addition to her large professional musical customer base Meroz devoted time and effort to supporting various musical projects on a voluntary basis.
Arber is hopeful that the charity show will help to significantly boost the research center’s financial footing, and help the institution to upgrade its work. “We have a small annual budget of NIS 200,000 and I hope the event will raise NIS 1 million,” he says. “I want to increase the level of our research work. Cancer is a very sophisticated thing. If we can understand what makes a normal cell become a cancerous cell we will be able to learn how to reverse the process and return the cell to its original healthy state."
Arber and his colleagues have their work cut out for them. “We are making progress, but only gradually. There are 150 forms of cancer, and we have to learn how each of them comes about, how to repair the condition, how to catch the ailment at an early stage, how to define and work with high-risk groups. There is the Human Genome Project [which includes identification of oncogenes and mutations linked to different forms of cancer] and we would like to work on a Jewish Genome Project. When I was an intern at Hadassah Medical Center we treated people with chronic myeloid leukemia. We knew they had one, two, maybe three years to live, and the treatment we could give them would not help. But, today, we know the mutation that causes the disease and we can treat it. That just shows that if you can understand the disease you can find a remedy. To do that more extensively we need to do more research, and for that we need more funds.”
Arber is, of course, aware that we all have to go sometime but he is doing his best to ensure that the likelihood of cancer being the cause of death is as low as possible. “We all have to die of something, but I would like to do with cancer what the cardiologists did with heart ailments,” he says. “In the early 20th century people died of infections. There were no antibiotics then and large numbers of people died as a result of unhygienic conditions. They introduced antibiotics and then people began to die of heart problems. Today we know how to detect and treat heart diseases, and today cancer is the big killer. I want to do more research, and to learn how to treat cancer sufferers, and to eradicate cancer.”
In addition to the aforementioned entertainers the show program features the Israel Chamber Orchestra, which Meroz also represented for 17 years. Meroz’s son Guy hopes the event will also have an ongoing positive result on a more individual level. “On the evening we will award a scholarship, in my mother’s name, to a promising classical musician from the country’s periphery,” he says. “This time it will be NIS 3,000, which we will give to a young man from Netivot.” Meroz is hopeful that a court ruling will provide funds to keep the scholarship going. He is currently suing the IPO on the basis that his mother did not receive compensation after the orchestra parted company with her. “We are suing them for a large sum and I hope, if we win, that we’ll be able to increase the sum of the scholarship and that we will be able to keep it going for many years.”
More than anything, Meroz would like to see the proceeds of Thursday’s show go to helping people avoiding his mother’s fate. “I hope they make tons of money from the event, and that the funds will help, in some small way, prevent others from getting this terrible disease.”
For tickets: *9066 and