Barak 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Ordinarily, when someone wins a prize, they can tell anyone they know about it and can often invite a whole bunch of relatives and friends to the awards ceremony.
Not so with the winners of the Israel Defense Prize. For them it's the exact opposite. They can't even tell all of their nearest and dearest - only the ones they would unflinchingly trust with their lives.
The Defense Prize saw its 51st annual award ceremony on Tuesday, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak giving out the awards in the presence of President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi.
The anonymous awardees are members of Israel's anonymous army, the geniuses whose brain-power has produced the nation's most advanced technological defense equipment, some of which is so secret that it will be years before anyone is allowed to acknowledge it exists, let alone talk about it.
The security of the state and its citizens is what motivates them, and according to Barak they ease the burden of a lot of decision-makers and help the people of Israel to sleep easier, even though they may not know why.
The projects for which the four major prizes were given were described in such vague terms that it would take more than a genius to work out what they were. Suffice to say that for the most part they provide the most advanced technological solutions to problems faced by the intelligence community.
In one case, the prize was awarded for defense equipment with unprecedented capability.
All the speakers including Peres emphasized the edge that this brainpower, coupled with high technology, has given Israel, but Defense Ministry director-general Pinchas Bucharis warned that Israel would not be able to maintain its advantage if students did not improve their knowledge of physics and math. Barak said that more attention should be paid to talented young people in the periphery because many of them had the potential to be future Defense Prize winners.
Peres observed that Israel is a country in which one airs one's weaknesses, but that because of the security challenges confronting the country, sometimes its strength and accomplishments had to be hidden.
"If everyone in Israel knew what this table knows," he said, indicating the four other people sitting at the presidium, "there would be much more optimism."
The IDF was not the war machine that its enemies portray it to be, Peres said. "It's a great school that educates citizens into becoming a nation."
Anyone who thinks the security budget is too big or that there is excessive waste, is mistaken, said Peres, who spent some 30 years of his life as a mover and shaker in the defense establishment. "The defense budget must be in proportion to the risks," he said. "We are a small nation facing great risks, but we are intellectually greater than our territory or our demography."