Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has honored Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund for his work in promoting Israel-Serbia relations. The Association of Jewish Communities of Serbia and the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) had recommended that he do so.
Vučić bestowed the Gold Medal of Merit to Freund, a Jerusalem Post columnist who is also president of the Israel-Serbia Friendship Association.
Due to the pandemic, UNS president Vladimir Radomirović accepted the award on Freund’s behalf. The award is Serbia’s highest honor for noncitizens.
In addition to his work on Israel-Serbia relations, Freund has written extensively on the history of Serbian Jews for the Post, which was taken into consideration for the award.
Freund expressed his appreciation for the award in a letter to Vučić.
“In recent years, and especially under your leadership, relations between Israel and Serbia have flourished,” he wrote, adding that “there have been strong historical ties between Jews and Serbs for centuries.”
“Our peoples lived and died together,” Freund wrote. “We are both small nations surrounded by hostile forces, proud of our traditions and cultures, who have seen our homelands invaded and occupied throughout history. During World War II, the evil Ustashe regime murdered Serbs and Jews side by side at Jasenovac. And yet, despite the difficulties, neither Serbs nor Jews ever gave up, and we both stand proudly on the world stage as sovereign, independent states.”
Freund said he hopes to visit Belgrade soon and to meet Vučić in person.