Large screens behind the band show band members, the Israeli flag and – hold on here – the Knesset, the Western Wall and broad views of Jerusalem. The band chose Fiddler on the Roof, Machar (“Tomorrow”) a modern Israeli favorite, Hava Nagila and “Shalom Aleichem” (with which the Russians were clearly familiar). The faces of the Israeli soldiers are extraordinary – they understand the moment. For those of us old enough to have grandfathers who fled Russia to escape the Czar’s Army, not to mention “duck and cover” in school in fear of the Soviets, watching a large and enthusiastic Russian audience clap in time to the IDF Band on Red Square with the Kremlin lit up in the background is eye-popping.
Coincidentally (?), Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Russia last week to sign a military cooperation agreement, declaring Israel “ready to continue sharing experience with the Russian military on fighting terrorism and ensuring security, including by using air drones.” The Russian Defense Minister said Moscow was “studying seriously and attentively” the experiences and practices of the IDF. Barak met with Vladimir Putin as well to discuss proposed Russian arms sales to Syria.
It doesn’t make us at all comfortable to watch Israel and Russia cooperate at what surely will be the expense of Georgia. And it doesn’t let Castro off the hook for policies that have made Cuba one of the poorest and most repressive places in our hemisphere – and we are not overlooking the Cuban government’s treatment of Alan Gross, a Jewish American imprisoned while on a humanitarian mission.
But there are things we thought we would never see. The IDF Band being cheered in Red Square is one.