People say many things about Israelis — that they are a rude and uncultured bunch, for instance. I can’t really say that this is completely untrue, but sometimes the unwashed masses manage to surprise with their refinement.
Like last night for instance, when some 100,000 Israelis chose not spend the evening on the beach promenade or the cafés and restaurants on Rothschild Boulevard, and instead converged on Park Ha-Yarkon to listen to a 90 minutes long Catholic funeral mass.
This interest is especially noteworthy, since I would assume that a rather reduced number would have turned up to hear a performance of El Male Rachamim, even though that would only have taken a minute or two.
Of course, it could be that the major pull-factor wasn’t the thirst for funerary esthetics, but rather other things. Such as the fact that this particular mass for the deceased was written by none other than Guiseppe Verdi, that it was performed by the orchestra from the world-famous La Scala — and that it was conducted by none other than Daniel Barenboim.
There were certain clues that pointed in this direction, some indications that the crowds in the Park didn’t really relate to the message of the performance. One of these clues is the fact that this:
Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved. That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Was followed, immediately after the Requiem was finished, by this — played over the loudspeakers loudly enough to be heard over the fireworks that were set off.