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Photo by: Muki Schwartz
Ten honored with Israel's 59th annual Israel Prize
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
04/26/2012
Life Achievement awards were given to environmentalist Azaria Alon and educator and former MK Rabbi Haim Drukman.
 
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).

The 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 law.

The Israel Prize was initiated in 1953 by then-education minister Ben-Zion Dinur.

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 of Jerusalem.

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 corruption.

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.
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