Music has the unique power to evoke personal and collective emotion. It has featured prominently in pivotal moments dating to the earliest days of recorded Jewish history.
Shortly after the exodus from Egypt, the newly freed slaves sang at the Red Sea and Miriam led the women with her tambourine. Indeed, collective song and dance is their first act in unison as a free Jewish people.
Deborah sang when Israel defeated the Canaanite commander Sisera.
After years of infertility, Hannah sang aloud when she gave birth to Samuel.
King David received the title of the “sweet singer of Israel”.
The connection between music and lifting Israel’s collective spirits has featured prominently in pivotal times in our earliest days as a nation.
However, in the years to come, music will now always be associated with the darkest day in Israeli history. Diverse Israelis were massacred in the most brutal fashion while dancing for peace at a music festival. Their crime – being Jewish.
In one European capital, less than 100 hours after this unspeakable tragedy, music served as an incredibly public testament to solidarity with the grieving people of Israel and the world Jewish community.
On Wednesday, October 11th, over 1,500 diverse Croatians came together at the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall in the heart of Zagreb. From the Speaker of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers to school children with their parents and grandparents, the audience, each with an Israeli flag in hand, gathered. They showed the rest of the European Union (and concerning voices in neighboring Bosnian) what true friendship with Israel – an allied democracy – means.
The concert featured Eurovision luminaries Croatian Tatjana “Tajči” Cameron and Israeli Moti Giladi. They were accompanied by the Croatian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Alan Bjelinski, with Jewish American pianist Joe Kaplowitz joining them.
When something happens for the first time, traditionally Jews recite the shehecheyanu blessing. I found myself saying this blessing multiple times from the front row as I was witnessed a repertoire that included Hatikva, Yerushaliyim shel Zahav, Hevenu Shalom Alechem and other moving scores expertly played by the orchestra. The power of music once again was on full display during a historical week in Jewish history.
The concert was the brainchild of Dr. Dragan Primorac, founder of the Croatian-Israeli Business Club and Israeli Ambassador Gary Koren. Dr. Primorac launched the group in 2010 during the official visit of the late Israeli President Shimon Peres. Ambassador Koren, previously posted in Moscow, has represented Israel in Croatia for the last year.
In 2022, exports from Israel to Croatia reached a value of almost $38 million USD. This was a significant increase of almost 77 percent compared to the previous year.
Also last year, St. Catherine Hospital of Zagreb, founded by Dr. Primorac, signed a collaboration with Bonus BioGroup in Haifa. Life-saving cellular therapies for degenerative, infectious, and inflammatory diseases will be further developed in collaboration with Croatian physicians, scientists and their patients.
Across too many capitals of the European Union, there is antipathy toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Even now – after the most obvious and brutal terrorism streamed live onto social media for the world to witness – this continues. Silence is complicity.
However, forceful repeated statements from Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković have demonstrated what heads of government should be doing during Israel’s darkest hour. Multiple buildings across the country lit with the Israeli flag and the Foreign Ministry raising the Israeli flag above its headquarters are core tenets of public diplomacy that too few capitals have shown. Croatia joined Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States with these powerful light displays.
Yet, in a region which knows the lasting physical and emotional scars of war a two hour first of its kind concert demonstrated the truest definitions of friendship and innovative public diplomacy.
Not just on the football pitch, there is a healthy competition across the member states of the European Union. Others should take notice and follow Croatia’s lead.