Renowned actor and director Oded Kotler will receive the Israel Prize in the theater and dance categories for his "groundbreaking work and achievements in the Israeli theater, as an actor and as a director," Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announced on Thursday.
Born in 1937, Kotler began working in theater at the age of 14, when he founded the "Theater for Youth" (KLAIM) which shortly after its establishment gained recognition of the Tel Aviv municipality.
He later drafted into the IDF where he served as commander of the Central Command's band.
Kotler was the producer of many plays in various theater institutes where he served as the artistic director. Among his works are the plays "Popcorn" and "Hefetz" which he directed.
"Kotler founded and managed groundbreaking institutions that have allowed voices from a variety of backgrounds to be heard, he expanded the boundaries of the Israeli spirit and enabled the development of original Israeli plays," the selection committee stated.
"He has appeared with great success and talent, on Israeli stages for more than 60 years, continues to innovate, refresh and enrich the Israeli story to this day," the committee further emphasized.
In 2015, Kotler caused a media storm following remarks he made about then-culture minister Miri Regev and Likud voters, during a gathering of Israeli artists.
“Behind your 30 mandates marches a herd of grazing beasts,” said Kotler during a speech in Jaffa that immediately triggered wall-to-wall condemnations, ranging from then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to then-head of the opposition Isaac Herzog.
Kotler later apologized for his remarks.
Right-wing politicians blasted the decision to award Kotler the prize. "It's a shame that Israel has chosen such a person to receive the award," said Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir.
"The man who called us a herd of grazing beasts, that represents arrogance, and patronizing, can not boast of the Israel Prize, it is a shame," Likud MK Miri Regev said in a tweet.
In response, Kotler told Army Radio that he did not regret the "beasts remark."
"I did not speak about Likud voters, I was speaking only on the violation of freedom of expression," Kotler said according to the radio station.