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The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was founded by Bronislaw Huberman in 1936. Huberman was a Zionist and founded the orchestra in order to save Jewish musicians in Europe from the Holocaust, which he foresaw. The inaugural concert, on December 26th 1936, was conducted by the legendary Arturo Toscanini to great acclaim, with the "Palestine Orchestra", as it was then known, being characterised as "an orchestra of soloists". With Israelīs independence in 1948 it was renamed "The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra". It is now considered "one of the ten best orchestras in the world today".

The IPO performs more than 200 concerts annually, playing in subscription concerts in all the major cities throughout Israel. It also takes part in special opera productions, some of them in the ancient Amphitheatre at Caesarea. As well as being "Israelīs best ambassador abroad" with its annual foreign tours, the IPO contributes to the national effort with special concerts for IDF soldiers, at times of war even in the most remote outposts. Thus, the IPO played at the celebration of the Declaration of Israelīs Independence (1948), in newly liberated Beer-Sheba (1948), on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem after it had been reunified and in Ophira (1967), in Bethlehemīs Nativity Square (Christmas 1968), at the "Good Fence" on the Lebanese border (1977) and at Massada (1988).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has done much to further the careers of Israeli artists and young talent from Israel and abroad. Earlier the ranks of the IPO included many musicians who came mainly from USSR and the USA, but nowadays more than half the IPO members have been born and trained for the most part in Israel. The IPO has played host to many of the worldīs greatest conductors. Two conductors particularly associated with the orchestra are Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta. Maestro Bernstein has maintained close ties with the IPO ever since his debut with them in 1947 and was named IPO Laureate Conductor in 1988. Maestro Mehta first appeared in Israel when both he and the IPO were 25 years old, and a close bond has been maintained between ever since. He has served as the orchestraīs Music Director since 1968, and in 1981 his appointment was extended for life.

In 1992, the IPO appointed Kurt Masur Honorary Guest Conductor.

The IPO has incorporated in its mission the nurturing and development of young and gifted musicians and provides opportunities for them. This is demonstrated through scholarship funds, support of the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, an annual "Young Artists Concert", and the annual "The Maestro and His Young Guests" youth concert. In 1993 the IPO launched its "IPO Young Subscribers' Club" for junior-high boys and girls. Members of this club receive, for a very symbolic annual fee, entrance to concerts, on a seat-availability basis, besides which they enjoy various educational activities. For younger children, the IPO offers a series of five narrated concerts which attracts thousands of its future subscribers.

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