(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
People of the year: JPost special
When Robert "Yisrael" Aumann won the Nobel Prize in economics in November, he declared, "It is not only for me, but for the whole school of game theory in Israel."
He might have said that it wasn't just one outstanding professor who won, but all of Israeli society - as his name alone indicates.
For Aumann is much more than a brilliant mind. He represents so many different aspects of the Israeli spirit that the award pays tribute to them as well.
Aumann, first, is an immigrant success story: He fled Nazi Germany as a child with his family, grew up in America and during the 1956 Sinai campaign moved to Israel where he became a renowned game theorist.
But he is also the archetypal Israeli: a hard-working scientist who isn't shy about his political convictions; he lost a son in Lebanon but remains a committed Zionist. And he is an emblem of Jewish values: he attended yeshiva, is a devoted member of his Jerusalem congregation and is a father of five, a grandfather of 19 and a great-grandfather to two - and counting.
His victory is a blessing for all of Israel. In a country so often defined by military conflict, any international recognition for academic achievement is a victory. As it happens, Aumann's work in game theory has applications to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as strategies for developing long-term relations between foes. But it is perhaps most notable that in an arena such as the awarding of the Nobel Prize, where some have seen political influences, Aumann's views weren't a factor.
A member of Professors for a Strong Israel, which opposes yielding any part of the Land of Israel, Aumann's selection sparked an on-line petition for the honor to be rescinded.
"We do not consider the political views behind the research," Jorgen Weibull, chairman of the committee that selects the prize winners, told The Jerusalem Post in response last fall. "Our task is to select the most significant scientific contributions."
Even so, Aumann's contributions have hardly been limited to one field.