“Music is our life- the IDF helps our passion grow”

IDF (Zahal) musicians contribute their talents by playing in the field, boosting the soldiers’ morale. Many famous artists took their first steps performing in IDF (Zahal) bands

Date: 17/08/2012, 6:40 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

When thinking of the military, most people imagine tanks roaring in the field, aircraft piercing the skies, and vessels in the depths. However, among the weapons available in the IDF (Zahal) arsenal, one can also find an electric guitar, a keyboard, and a drum set.

Israeli citizens from all backgrounds and interests are required to serve in the IDF (Zahal), forming a unique blend of people, each equipped with a variety of skills. Many of the young and talented artists enlisting in the army choose to contribute their unique skills in joining the various army bands, boosting the morale of thousands of soldiers as they defend the State of Israel.  

Meet the Israeli Air Force band

Cpl. Omer Hod, one of the many singers in the Israel Air Force band, grew up in a family that lived and breathed the Air Force. Her grandfather, Maj. Gen. Mordechai (Mottie) Hod was the commander of the Air Force in the Six-Day War, and led the IDF (Zahal) to a decisive victory in a war that was largely decided in the air. 

“Growing up in a household with such a legacy, filled with an ideological drive and motivation to contribute to the state of Israel, I always knew that I will eventually serve in a position in the Israel Air Force,” explained Cpl. Hod. “It was as clear as day to me.”

It was during Maj. Gen. Hod’s term that the IAF band was established. In the aftermath of its victory in the Six Day War, the IDF (Zahal) sought a way to commemorate successful battles and elevate soldier morale. A decision was made to broaden the music department to virtually every command and corps, and in 1971 the Air Force received its own musicians. It laid the groundwork for what is now one of the most established and renowned bands in the IDF (Zahal).

A former IAF band member, Sgt. Aviv Koren (21), still arranges, conducts, and plays keyboard for the lineup. “I love the stage,” said Sgt. Koren. “I live on stage, the army is very much a part of my musical life and I feel proud to be able to be a part of it.”

Where tomorrow’s career musicians take off

While bands had existed in the army since the War of Independence, it was not until 1967 that they found way into the hearts of the soldiers and the citizens as well. Today, the bands produce the next generation of pop and rock stars of the Israeli mainstream music scene, and have established themselves an inseparable status in Israeli culture.

The Air Force Band provides a home to outstanding musicians – musicians who have stood out, and acquired international reputation. Cpl. Dor Sperber is one of those elite few. Having being trained in Viola since his young age, he went on to win international competitions around the world. He spent 2 years in Switzerland and already managed to receive his B.A. in Music, with a concentration in Viola from Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne.

In the past many of those virtuosos would have had to interrupt their careers and serve in an unrelated field. “It was a death sentence for career musicians,” said Corp. Sperber, “the fingers are muscles, and if they go untrained for a prolonged time, the musician would never be able to recover the loss caused. It could seriously harm his career.” 

During his service, Cpl. Sperber is granted special rights as an outstanding musician. He is allowed to travel frequently abroad for international competitions, and recently started working on his Master’s degree.

The future bodes well for Cpl. Sperber and his fellow young artists, and the army provides an excellent platform for them to display and hone their skills.