Prof. Ya'acov (Gerald) Blidstein of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has been awarded this year's Israel Prize in Jewish Thought for the year 5766. The prize, Israel's highest honor, was announced by Minister of Education, Culture and Sport Meir Shitreet on Tuesday.
Blidstein, who holds the Miriam Martha Hubert Chair in Jewish Law, joined the faculty of BGU in 1972. He served in a number of senior positions including chairman of the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought and head of the Goldstein-Goren International Center of Jewish Thought.
A member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Blidstein is an internationally-renowned scholar in Maimonides' halachic law and philosophy, with a special emphasis on political philosophy. His work in Jewish law focuses on Jewish public law and the interface of law and social ethics.
Blidstein has also published many studies on the history of prayer and liturgy from ancient times to the present. His research interests cover the history and philosophy of halachah in general, Maimonides' ethics and halachah, prayer, aggadic literature, and political thought.
According to the citation issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, "Prof. Blidstein from Ben-Gurion University is the outstanding researcher of rabbinic thought from the medieval and modern periods, and in this field he has made a substantial contribution that constitutes a radical breakthrough in the research of the halachic philosophy of Maimonides and its influence throughout the generations. In his very accurate analysis of the halacha, he reveals its philosophical foundations and deepens the understanding of pure philosophy. His research into the relationship between democracy and halacha has had a major impact beyond the academic world, in Israel and around the world."
Originally from the United States, Blidstein received his Ph.D. and later a Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa from Yeshiva University in New York.
The awards will be officially presented in a special Independence Day ceremony.