Anchor Staff Writer
I have been to Israel twice in my life. The first time was when I was very young. I can barely remember what happened. At most, a few vague memories of being on Kibbutz Keturah with my aunt while my parents and brother traveled on foot across the desert to Jordan. Then, a few years back, me and my father traveled to Israel again. As I traversed the ancient streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, the market stalls to my left and right opened my eyes to how different the world was outside the United States. Stepping through stone archways, I could truly feel the weight of history bearing down on me.
“Israel @ 75,” an orchestral show performed at Rhode Island College’s Sapinsley Hall on April 30, reawakened those memories. “Israel @ 75,” which features Avery Fisher Career Grant Winner and clarinet player Alexander Fitzerstein and Boston Symphony Orchestra member and cellist Mickey Katz, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the nation of Israel. Hosted by the RIC’s very own pianist Artist in Residence and The American Prize Honored Artist Judith Lynn Stillman, the show combines stunning evocative artwork with classic musical pieces to evoke a powerful experience like no other.
At the beginning of the show, I saw something incredible happen. As the first piece, “Hatikvah” meaning “the hope” and is the Israeli national anthem, was played, most of the people in the audience stood up and began singing the original Jewish lyrics. I had never heard the song before but found myself standing and doing my best to join in. The show had only just begun and already so many people were reminded of their cultural heritage.
The day was May 14, 1948. Inside Tel Aviv’s Beit Dizengoff, the home of Mier Dizegoff, the first mayor of Israel and his wife Zina, a joyous festival was taking place. In a truly historic moment, David Ben Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel, read from the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. He spoke to the pain endured by the Jewish people and declared the measures their new independent home would follow from that point forward. He and the other members of the Provisional State Council then signed the document. Now these constantly migrating men, women and children didn’t need to run any longer. Now they finally had a home.
As I closed my eyes and listened to the music, I found myself being lulled into a peaceful slumber. The symphonies were serene, magical and relaxing. I quickly got lost in the elegant crescendos of heartbreak and harmony that emanated from the masterful strokes executed by Stillman, Katz and Fitzerstein onstage. This was also my first time seeing a show inside Sapinsley Hall as well as my first time attending a classical music concert, which was really cool. It was a learning experience, since I’m not too well-versed when it comes to Israeli history, musicians and visual artists.
Stillman did a fantastic job introducing each work’s composer and their personal history. Thanks to her, I got a thorough understanding of every artist’s unique individual style before their piece was played.
I originally planned on attending this show on my own, but last Saturday, my father and his partner said they had bought tickets and would be coming along also. Being with my father for this show made me grow closer to him in heart and spirit. For that, I honestly cannot thank the show’s artists enough.