(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and former IDF chief Lt.-Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz have been appointed to the committee tasked with choosing a winner for the Jerusalem Unity Prize, Mayor Nir Barkat announced.
The prize, now in its second year, was created by Barkat to promote Jewish unity together with the Gesher organization, which works to foster connections between secular and religious Israelis.
Barkat and Gesher developed the concept further in conjunction with the Shaer, Fraenkel and Yifrah families in memory of their sons Gil- Ad, Naftali and Eyal, whose kidnapping by Hamas sparked 2014’s Gaza war.
The boys’ kidnapping was a “turning point in Jewish communal relations, bringing together Jews of all backgrounds in an unprecedented display of solidarity,” according to prize organizers, who explained on Monday that it was intended to “harness that spirit of national unity and inspire continued work to bridge divides within the greater Jewish community.”
“Benny Gantz is a natural leader whose resolve carried the Israeli military through the tragic period following our boys’ abduction and the subsequent campaign in Gaza,” the Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrah families said in a statement. “Natan Sharansky serves as the ultimate symbol of Jewish heroism and courage whose personal story has inspired millions.
Both of these figures therefore exhibit the traits which inspire pride and unity within the modern Jewish experience and we feel deeply honored to have them as part of this effort.”
“Jerusalem serves as a bridge between our people’s dream and our reality, and is the very realization of our national aspirations.
The city unites us in times of victory as well as tragedy, reminding that when tragedy strikes, it is incumbent upon us to rise and unite in action, in giving back and with mutual respect for all,” said Sharansky.
“I salute the Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrah families on this remarkable initiative, and it is an honor to have been invited to be part of the program,” he said.