The Israel Police Orchestra was founded in 1921, mere months after the British mandate Palestine Police Force was established. A British Jewish officer named Aubrey (Zvi) Silver commanded and conducted the orchestra. Silver, a gifted musician, served in the Jewish Legion in Eretz Israel during WWI and chose to remain there when the fighting ceased. Silver was appointed commander of the orchestra and began to recruit musicians, most of whom were Jews.
The orchestra played at police ceremonies and parades, and at parties held by various police units. It also held concerts for the public in order to bring the populace closer to the police officers who upheld the law. Thanks to its highly professional level, the orchestra became the official musical body for the Mandate government, participating in official ceremonies from the High Commissioner’s swearing-in to the King of England’s birthday.
When security tensions rose, orchestra members exchanged their instruments for rifles and protected residents from terrorist attacks. During the riots of 1929, the Arab revolt (1936-1939) and toward the end of the British Mandate (1947-1948) the orchestra defended the Jewish residents of Jerusalem, especially in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, where they were based.
When the British Mandate ended the orchestra moved from the Palestine Police Force to the Jerusalem Police Force, which operated in the new area of the city. During Israel’s first months as an independent country, members of the orchestra mainly focused on security and military missions. Three of them were killed in battle and they are considered to be the first Israel Police casualties. The conductor, Naftali Gribov, was even commended for his actions under fire.
After the War of Independence, the Israel Police Orchestra returned to performing at police and national ceremonies as well as before the public. During the massive Aliyah to Israel in the 1950’s, the orchestra played in transit camps, outlying towns and new immigrant neighborhoods, and worked to strengthen the public’s faith in the young country’s police force. Some of the orchestra members even lived for a time in the Har-Tuv transit camp, where they helped new Olim to become acclimated.
Over the years, the Israel Police Orchestra has continued to take part in police and national ceremonies and to perform for the Israeli public. In wartimes, the orchestra travelled to front lines to entertain the troops. Although the orchestra’s primary function is to strengthen the vital ties between the police force and the community that it serves, orchestra musicians also have police roles and in times of emergency, they patrol streets alongside their fellow police officers.
Today, one hundred years after it was founded, the Israel Police Orchestra is the oldest security organization in Israel. The musicians who currently serve in the orchestra constitute another link in the long chain that connects the Israel Police to its historic roots as well as to the public that it serves. This tune will never stop!