And the winners are...

Singers, scholars and designers take the stage to accept the esteemed Israel Prize.

gevatron 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
gevatron 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Every year on Independence Day, the prestigious Israel Prize is awarded to individuals, groups and institutions for excellence in culture, academics or service to the state. The minister of education decides on the recipients, based on the recommendations of a panel of judges. This year's ceremony will be held at 7:25 p.m., and will be broadcast on Channel 1. GEVATRON Award for Lifetime Achievement By Esti Keller For members of the Gevatron, the Kibbutz Geva-based song group selected by the Education Ministry to receive one of this year's Israel Prizes for lifetime achievement, the award hasn't come soon enough. "There had been talk in recent years of us getting the prize, but each time it came to nothing," says Gevatron member Racheli Gordon, "so when we found out that we would be receiving it, as you can imagine, we were ecstatic." "We feel that we are finally gaining formal recognition for the huge impact we have had on Israeli musical culture," she continued. In its 59 years, the choir has earned a reputation as Israel's foremost folk group, attaining substantial record sales and delighting audiences throughout the country. Its music has influenced many of the bands and singing groups that followed in its footsteps. The group was established in 1948 by a number of young Geva residents; they originally sang at internal kibbutz events. The Gevatron's early music was heavily influenced by the Eastern European folk sounds evocative of its members' birth countries. In the 1960s, the Gevatron gained national fame and has since appeared repeatedly at the country's biggest venues, as well as performing abroad on a regular basis. Gordon recalls trips to Hong Kong and the US as highlights of her 12 years with the Gevatron. She cites the group's concert at the 1995 Malchei Yisrael Square peace rally, and their subsequent witnessing of Yitzchak Rabin's assassination, as the one memorable low point. Today the choir consists of a number of members from nearby kibbutzim. "The decision was taken about 17 years ago to allow non Geva members to join," says Gordon, herself a resident of the neighboring Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh. "But it's still very much a Geva choir, " she continues. "In fact, two of the original group members, who are now in their seventies, still sing with us." Members range in age from their forties to late seventies but, Gordon says, age and any other differences become irrelevant once on stage. "We're united by our love of song," she enthuses. It is this love of song that motivates the members of the Gevatron. "We are all volunteers with full time jobs, mostly on our kibbutzim," explains Gordon, an employee in the finance department at Kfar Hahoresh's bakery. "Salaries for performances go toward the Gevatron's expenses." Israel Prize judges commended the Gevatron for its "unique and significant contribution to Israeli culture." "In a world dominated by fads," the judges wrote of their decision, "The Gevatron is an influential phenomenon." According to Gordon, these are sentiments well deserved. "The name Gevatron has become synonymous with Israeli folk music," she says. "Ask any Israeli, regardless of their age, and they'll have an awareness of our songs and the messages about the beauty of our land that they impart." NAHUM BARNEA Award in Journalism By SHELLY PAZ Thirty-five years after the exposure of the Watergate scandal by Washington Post investigative reporters, their Israeli counterpart, journalist Nahum Barnea, is being honored with the Israel Prize for Journalism. Barnea, like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, has displayed his dedication to journalistic ideals, and has put in the serious legwork and uncompromising perseverance required by true investigative journalism. Years after the Watergate scandal, Barnea wrote that his coverage of the affair as a young man from Washington DC shaped the journalist he became. Barnea, now 63, was born in Petah Tikva. He began his journalism career at the Hebrew University's student newspaper, Pi Ha'aton, while studying for a BA in history and political science. Prior to his studies, Barnea served in the IDF's Nahal combat unit. From 1967-1982, Barnea worked as a reporter for the Histadrut Labor Federation's Davar daily. The paper sent him to Washington to cover the American political scene. He became one of Davar's main journalists. His career continued as editor of the weekly Koteret Rashit in 1982, where he worked until the paper shut down seven years later. Since then, Barnea has been at Yediot Aharonot, where he serves as the daily's star reporter. He also writes for the media affairs bi-monthly Ha'ayin Hashvi'it journal. In 1981, Barnea was the recipient of the Sokolov Prize for Journalism, and in 1998 he was chosen as the most influential Israeli journalist BY WHOM in the state's 50 years. Barnea lives in Jerusalem; he is married and a father of three. He lost his son, Jonathan, in a Hamas terror attack on the number 18 bus in the capital in 1996. The prize committee, headed by journalist Moti Kirshenbaum, wrote in its decision to award the prize to Barnea that he "is a journalist with a unique style that combines a knack for writing with fieldwork." The committee also wrote that Barnea had "accompanied the Israeli experience for dozens of years," noting the journalist's ability to always be at the scene of a story, whether it means being in the center of social disputes or in the middle of wars and terror attacks, oftentimes putting his own life at risk to get the story. Throughout the years, the committee noted, Barnea has succeeded in being both provocative and compassionate, while remaining critical and "very Israeli" - and always humane. Nahum Barnea is the man that nearly every young reporter aspires to be. He was awarded the Israel Prize due to his diligence, his talent, his courage, and "his special way of capturing Israeliness." ADA KARMI-MELAMEDE Award in Architecture By LAURA RHEINHEIMER Although a newcomer to the honor, Ada Karmi-Melamede is not unfamiliar with the Israel Prize. In 1957, at age 52, her father, Dov Carmi (who chose a different English-language spelling of the family name), became the first architect to receive the prize. He most famously designed the Mann Auditorium building in Tel Aviv along with architect Ze'ev Rechter. Her brother, Ram Carmi, received the Israel Prize in Architecture in 2002. When she learned of her own win, Karmi-Melamede said she was sad that she was unable to share the news with her late father. Like her father and brother, Ada Karmi-Melamede's own blueprints have been a cornerstone of Israel; her designs can be seen throughout the country from the academic buildings of universities to private homes, and most famously, the Supreme Court of Israel. As a testament to her contribution to the face of Israel, the Tel Aviv native is being presented the Israel Prize in Architecture in Jerusalem, the city that is home to some of her best work. "I think of architecture as storytelling in built form, and therefore you need to have a story," she says. "The more profound the story, the greater the likelihood to touch people. Karmi-Melamede designed the impressive Supreme Court of Israel with her brother Ram Karmi after they won an international competition for the project in 1986. The brother-sister duo designed the stunning courthouse complex to include elements of the historical aspect of Jerusalem in the language of modern architecture. "The building stems from two different languages: one from the architectural precedence of Jerusalem and the other from the modern tools of architecture," Ada Karmi-Melamede says. Her design work doesn't stop there; Karmi-Melamede has been sought out to design educational and corporate facilities all over the country, including the life sciences buildings and the School of Medicine at the Ben Gurion University campus in Beersheba, Tel Aviv's Open University, and the buildings for the IDC's schools of business and government in Herzliya. Most recently, she has undertaken two projects in Jerusalem for the new Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies campus near the Israel Museum and Yad Ben-Zvi. Karmi-Melamede proved herself as an able architect and effective instructor after years of studies. She began at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and then went on to complete her bachelor's degree at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa in 1963. Straight out of her studies, she joined up with Karmi Associates in 1962 with her brother, but left Israel five years later to work in architecture in the United States and around the world. There have been three books and over 60 articles written about her work. In the United States, Karmi-Melamede happened into academia after working for Mitchell and Giorgola, a New York-based firm; Aldo Giolgola was then the Dean of Architecture at Columbia University. She joined the Columbia faculty as a lecturer and later as a professor of architecture; she also traveled the country as a visiting professor at several American universities, including Yale, Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as throughout Europe. Karmi-Melamede returned to Israel in 1986 and was invited to participate in the Supreme Court competition, which turned into a project that spanned over seven years. In 1992, after the project's completion, she opened her own office, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, in 1992. Karmi-Melamede has been previously recognized with several awards, including the Rechter Prize in Architecture and Hadassah's Women of Distinction honor. Well into her career, Karmi-Melamede continues to work on complex and impressive projects. "In architecture, every project is a new beginning," Karmi-Melamede says. "The projects become more mature and more profound every time." DOV LAUTMAN Award for Lifetime Achievement By GREER FAY CASHMAN For more than half his lifetime, Dov Lautman, 71, has been a prominent figure in Israel's economy. Lautman is one of this year's recipients of the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement. Lautman is the founder and chairman of Delta Galil Industries, and has worked tirelessly to advance Israel's economy, to break down ethnic, religious and social barriers within Israel, as well as to promote peace in the Middle East and to enhance higher education. Lautman was born in Tel Aviv in 1936, and graduated from MIT in 1961 with a B.Sc in mechanical engineering. In the citation by the Israel Prize adjudicating committee, Lautman is described as someone who for 40 years set an example for others, while working to build Israel's economy and to promote peace. Asked by The Jerusalem Post what he believed to be his greatest achievement, Lautman unhesitatingly replied "Delta," then paused for a second and added: "other than my three grandchildren." Some people dream of winning prizes, and work tirelessly towards that goal. Lautman isn't one of them. He was neither blas nor surprised about being named an Israel Prize laureate. "I never really thought about it, I don't lack for honors," he admitted candidly. "The Israel Prize is a very prestigious honor and I was highly flattered to receive it, but I've been named Yakir Tel Aviv and I've won a lot of other awards, so as pleased as I was, I didn't say 'Wow, now I have to work harder to be deserving of something else.'" If the truth be told, Lautman actually enjoys working. "Work makes me feel good," he says. "If it helps other people at the same time, so much the better." Lautman founded Delta Textiles Ltd in 1975, following a successful career with Sabrina Textiles Limited and Gibor Textile Industries. The experience that he gained at both companies served him well at Delta, which in 1988 went into partnership with the Sara Lee Corporation. When he created Delta, it was not only with the aim of making it a leading producer of socks and underwear, but also of developing a model in which Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druse and employees of other minorities enjoy equal rights and work together in harmony. Delta employs over 10,000 people in its facilities in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, South America and the UK, and was one of Israel's pioneers in global manufacturing. It is now in the top five companies of its kind worldwide. While the production-cost factor was undoubtedly one of the major considerations that motivated the company to expand its manufacturing operations to neighboring countries with cheap labor, another incentive was what such a move might achieve towards cementing stronger ties between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan. Lautman's two major interests outside of his company are promoting education and coexistence. He became particularly concerned with education after Rabin's assassination, realizing that it was an essential key towards narrowing if not closing the social gap. Although Lautman served as president of the Israel Manufacturers Association from 1986-1993 and as chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations, he reached greater fame in the period from 1993 to 1995, when he served as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's Special Emissary for Economic Development. He has held executive roles in the Peres Center for Peace, Dor Shalom, the Abraham Fund, the Yitzhak Rabin center for Israel Studies, the Association for Industry's Community Relations, the Boards of Governors of Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Universities and as Chairman of the Executive Council of Tel Aviv University. Last year he was a recipient of TAU's President's Prize, and was also awarded an honorary Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contribution to Anglo-Israel Economic Relations. The other 2007 Israel Prize recipients Prize for Lifetime Achievement ALICE SHALVI THE JDC Prize in Engineering Research PROF. ZVI HASHIN Prize in Torah Literature Bar Ilan University's RESPONSA PROJECT Prize in Psychology PROF. SHALOM SCHWARTZ Prize in Geography PROF. ELISHA EFRAT Prize in Biology PROF. ZVI SELINGER Prize in Design YAROM VARDIMON Prize in Architecture YA'AKOV YA'AR Prize in Knowledge of Israel PROF. AMNON COHEN