International maestro Zubin Mehta was on Monday presented with a medal of honour by Israel's Shimon Peres for his decades of work with the Israel Philharmonic, dubbing him the "conductor of our hearts."
"Israel used to be a drama and you made us into a dramatic symphony without compromising one for the other," the Israeli president told the Mumbai-born conductor as he awarded him the Presidential Medal of Distinction.
"You made our people feel at ease, feel together through the language of music. You and the orchestra carried a flag of friendship across the world and represented our country in an unbelievable manner," Peres said, in remarks communicated by his office.
Mehta became the orchestra's music adviser in 1969, its musical director in 1977, and in 1981 was appointed music director for life.
"To be given a hug by President Peres is already my award. There is no greater friend of India in Israel than Shimon Peres," Mehta said.
"What Israel has given me in the last 50 years, I can only give back by having my musicians night after night play their hearts out all over the world."