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Protest Greets Performance of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie

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Protest clogged the sidewalks surrounding Carnegie Hall Tuesday night as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed its third concert on a current eight-concert tour of the United States. Similar protests, organized by a selection of pro-Palestinian groups, are scheduled to take place as the Orchestra continues to other American cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. The protests have reportedly caused the Orchestra to increase security measures.

“I’ve been here for ten years and seen protests maybe twice, as far as I can remember,” commented Alex Beriguette, a doorman at the Briarcliffe, an apartment building across the street from Carnegie Hall. “They had a lot of signs and speakers,” Beriguette said. “It wasn’t very loud. Then they picked up their signs and music and they left just as calmly as they came in.” Beriguette noted that the protest lasted for approximately two hours and was attended by five to seven police officers.

A spokesperson from Kirshbaum Demler & Associates, which represents the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the United States, told WQXR neither the Orchestra nor the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra have a comment on the protests. Synneve Carlino, Director of Public Affairs at Carnegie Hall, described participants as "peaceful protesters" and added "The concert itself wasn’t affected."

In a report in Ynetnews, an Israel Philharmonic spokesperson said, "Despite the alerts, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will not give up a single concert. The US tour has turned into a tradition, and we don't have any intentions of folding in the face of threats. All the concerts have been sold out for five months, and we will not disappoint the audience."

Protesters carried signs and distributed fliers and mock Playbills challenging Israeli government policies. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has performed nearly 40 times at Carnegie Hall, was presented by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Carnegie Hall has been the site of occasional past protests in connection to performing orchestras and musical groups. In 2008, the Catholic League staged protests at Carnegie Hall in opposition to performances of the Jerry Springer Opera. The Vienna Philharmonic, which performed at Carnegie Hall in 1997, bowed to pressure to admit women to its ranks following protests. In 1973, demonstrators briefly took over Carnegie Hall to protest the appearance of the Leningrad Philharmonic, demanding the release of imprisoned Soviet Jews and permission to emigrate to Israel.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, originally named the Palestine Orchestra, was founded in 1936 by Polish-born violinist Bronislaw Huberman. The Orchestra's opening concert was conducted by Arturo Toscanini at the Levant Fair Hall in Tel-Aviv. The Orchestra began to tour in the 1940s, with initial visits to Egypt and the Western Desert at the intersection of Egypt, Libya and Sudan.

The Israel Philharmonic maintains a blog that has to date not mentioned the protests. Of the Orchestra's time in New York, blog-writer and IPO bass Peter Marck writes only: "The trees of Central Park were still covered with snow from the last storm and the temperatures were -6."