President Shimon Peres_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Philanthropists Morris Kahn and Geneva-based Phillippe Nordmann received Council
for a Beautiful Israel Yakir (Distinguished Citizen) awards on Wednesday at the
annual ceremony at the President’s Residence.
The council recognizes
individuals, organizations, institutions and industrial plants that have
undertaken projects to beautify the environment and to improve the quality of
The Magshim (Realization) award went to the 35 development towns
from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat that are collectively celebrating the 60th
anniversary of David Ben-Gurion’s decision to send new immigrants to barren
stretches of rock and sand all over the country, and to establish vibrant
Both the South African-born Israeli Kahn, and Nordmann, who
came from Switzerland for the ceremony, have been and are still engaged in
projects that enhance the quality of life in development towns. Both are also
engaged in many other activities in Israel.
Kahn, who made his fortune
from Amdocs, is the chairman and one of the founders of the Aurec Group, a
leading provider of software and services in the fields of communications and
Nordmann is the cofounder and president of the Philias
Foundation that encourages corporate and social responsibility. In addition to
environmental projects, he finances research into AIDS and campaigns for AIDS
awareness. He also funds many of the hospital clowns whose antics and patter do
so much to cheer up both junior and senior patients.
supports Neve Or, an AIDS treatment center at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot,
the Kiryat Yaarim Youth Village for children at risk and a rehabilitation
program for convicts who have been released from prison. In addition he supports
programs that encourage children’s creativity. Many of the projects to which he
contributes are in development towns.
Kahn, whose name consistently
appears on the Forbes list of the World’s Richest People, is a man of the sea, a
yachtsman and a former diver. He was very proud of his own association with
development towns. In 1958, two years after his arrival in Israel, Kahn opened
the first factory in Beit Shemesh, which made bicycles. After that he opened a
factory for the manufacture of gloves. He bought the leather in Europe, had it
cut in Tel Aviv and went from one development town to another to teach people
how to sew them. The finished product was then exported.
More recently he
established the Zalul Environmental Association, dedicated to protecting the
seas and rivers of Israel. Zalul is managed by his son Benjamin who is a marine
The award he had received, said Kahn, was not for him but for
Zalul which has fought on many fronts, the first being a decade or so ago, when
Kahn became aware that a lot of young navy divers were dying of cancer. They had
undergone IDF training in the polluted Kishon River near Haifa.
forced the creation of a government commission of inquiry that was headed by
former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar. As a result of its findings the
navy was forced to stop diving in the Kishon. Zalul also helped those former
divers who were ill and provided assistance to the families of those who had
Another triumph was stopping kibbutzim from farming fish in the Red
Sea. By farming fish in the sea, the kibbutzim were destroying the coral. The
battle took seven years, but the fish farms were moved to ponds on land and Kahn
was happy to report that “the coral is returning to life.”
battle was to fight against the pollution of Israel’s rivers by
In tandem with this campaign Zalul fought municipalities that
were dumping sewage into the sea.
The Council for a Beautiful Israel was
founded in 1968 by Aura Herzog, whose husband, Chaim Herzog, was later the
state’s sixth president.
A private organization that receives no
government support, its impact on national aesthetics and environmental and
ecological issues has been enormous