The Israel Prize – the nation’s most prestigious award – was bestowed on 10
honorees at the closing ceremony of Thursday’s Independence Day festivities in
the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma).
recipients were: Prof. David Kashdan for Mathematics and Computer Sciences;
Prof. Shlomo Bentin for Psychology; Prof. David Milstein for Chemistry and
Physics; Profs. Ruth Katz and Dalia Carni Cohen for Culture, Arts and
Musicology; Prof. Yoav Binyamini for Economics and Statistics; Natan
Shaham for Literature; and Yaakov Ahimeir for Communications.
Life Achievement awards were given to environmentalist Azaria Alon, who was one
of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature, and educator and
former MK Rabbi Haim Drukman.
Alon is listed in the Guinness Book of
Records as hosting the longest-running weekly radio program. He broadcasted for
53 years on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet. Drukman worked with hesder yeshivas,
bringing Zionist youth to Israel, assisting with immigrant absorption and
leading conversion programs within the framework of Halacha, or Jewish
The Israel Prize was initiated in 1953 by then-education minister
The Education Ministry evaluates potential nominees and
the education minister presents the award in the presence of the president,
prime minister, speaker of the Knesset, president of the Supreme Court and mayor
Two of the 2012 prize recipients made history in areas
unrelated to the nominated fields. Milstein was a paratrooper who helped
take the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six Day War.
Shaham participated in
raising the “ink flag” over Eilat in 1949 to signify Israeli sovereignty in the
War of Independence.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar presented the
citations to all the honorees with the exception of Ahimeir, who received his
mention from President Shimon Peres.
A huge cheer swept across the
audience when Ahimeir’s name was announced. Ahimeir spoke on behalf of
all the recipients. In his address, he criticized elected officials for their
indifference and cynicism toward the needs of society and toward fighting
He asked the nation’s leaders to give Israelis pride in being
able to say they are citizens.
Ahimeir – employed for half a century at
the Israel Broadcasting Authority – addressed Israel’s struggle for legitimacy,
when few question Iran’s and North Korea’s right to exist. For some reason, he
said, some intellectuals would like to see Israel disappear from the map and
blame Israel for the lack of peace.
In introductory remarks, Sa’ar
stressed the importance of providing greater educational opportunities for the
haredi and Arab sectors. Many members of the Arab community would like to
integrate into the Israeli mainstream, the minister said, but they must possess
the educational tools to improve their quality of life.