Oscar-winning British actress Dame Helen Mirren, who is in Israel to emcee the 2016 Genesis Prize ceremony honoring Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman, was herself honored on Wednesday by Mayor Nir Barkat with the inaugural Jerusalem of Gold Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities.
Mirren received the citation for her “contributions to society and for the inspiration she brings to millions of people around the world.”
“Helen Mirren is a symbol of status and unprecedented artistic success serving as an inspiration to millions around the world,” Barkat said at the ceremony in Jerusalem’s city hall.
Helen Mirren at Genesis Prize conference
“Mirren has enlisted her success and fame in order to make the world a better place and the city of Jerusalem is honored and happy to award her the Jerusalem of Gold medal for her work,” he said.
The award recognizes artists and intellectuals who have made a significant contribution to society through their work and actions.
“It is an indescribable pleasure to be your guest of honor in Jerusalem and an incredible honor to be the first to receive the Jerusalem of Gold medal,” Mirren said.
“Exceptional films need extraordinary actors, screenwriters, producers, and directors.
As such, everyone must have a place from which to draw inspiration. The breathtaking scenery of Jerusalem makes it without a doubt one of the most inspiring places in the entire world,” she added.
Prior to the ceremony, Barkat accompanied Mirren on a tour of the Old City, beginning with the City of David National Park and concluding by the Western Wall.
“It’s just the most extraordinary, moving and powerful experience to be here, to look at the incredible work that’s been done to reveal these histories.
I’ve always believed in history,” said Mirren. “I think that we have to remember what happened in the past always as it informs our future and it certainly informs our present.
“I’m a great believer in that.
To be in this situation where you see the past being revealed before your eyes is the most extraordinary, passionate and moving experience.”
Mirren and Perlman spent the day prior to the award ceremony visiting and meeting with members of the press at the Jerusalem Press Club, as well as with Israeli dignitaries, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Knesset also held a special event Wednesday evening in honor of Perlman in the presence of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Genesis Prize chairman Stan Polovets, and representatives of organizations working for the inclusion of disabled people.
As part of the evening, Perlman met with disabled people working in the Knesset.
Prior to the event, Edelstein said, “It is a great honor to host maestro Yitzhak Perlman, the Genesis Prize laureate. The event will focus on the integration of disabled persons in all aspects of life and will shine a very important light on this issue, which the Knesset has been advancing for a number of years.”
Perlman is the third recipient of the prestigious $1 million Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel Prize,” which recognizes people who have “attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.”
He will be awarded the prize for his “exceptional contributions as a musician, teacher, advocate for individuals with disabilities, dedication to Jewish values and the State of Israel.”