Exceptional Mossad employees received certificates of excellence on Wednesday from President Reuven Rivlin and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, during a special ceremony that included lighting the seventh candle of Hanukkah. The annual ceremony is traditionally held during Hanukkah. This year will be Cohen's last time bestowing the certificates, as he is nearing the end of his term. This year's selections included 12 Mossad employees - "the best of the best," Rivlin called them - who stood out in making significant contributions to the organization and the country as a whole. The exceptional professionals included an employee at Mossad's foreign affairs array who played a significant role in establishing the relations between the Mossad and Gulf states; an intelligence-gathering officer who has recently completed several "groundbreaking and significant operations" that increased Israel's relative advantage; and a combat officer who led the technological-operational field in the organization and a knowledge center for young recruits. "Your contribution to the Jewish people, and to the security and existence of the State of Israel is incomparable, thanks to your groundbreaking ideas and exceptional performance," Rivlin said during the ceremony. "And more than anything, it's thanks to your principles, your sense of dedication and commitment to Israel's security," he added. A press release noted that the president thoroughly read the resumes of all 12 exceptional employees, coming from various fields and departments in the Mossad. "The selection of every single one of you is an honor for the State of Israel," Rivlin noted. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also attended the ceremony, addressing the possible meaning of holding it during Hanukkah. "The men and women of the Mossad, you are our modern Maccabees," Netanyahu said. "The Mossad has become an extremely important organization and its role in protecting Israel is constantly increasing ... And Israel's power is the key to expanding the circle of peace," he added. Outgoing Mossad Director Yossi Cohen noted the Mossad's role in achieving Israel's recent groundbreaking diplomatic achievements. "In the past few months we've seen incredible developments allowing peace and regional normalization. I'm proud to say that the Mossad played an integral part in the processes culminating in the recent agreements," Cohen said."Just as the Mossad works to thwart plots by Israel's enemies, it constantly searches for opportunities for reaching peace and collaboration. When it finds such opportunities, it works exhaustively and persistently in order to turn them into solid and stable assets," he added. Cohen also addressed the employees' family members and thanked them for their patience, resilience and support "that allow our excellent employees the ability to focus, persist and give everything they have for the Mossad and the State of Israel." Rivlin also congratulated the incoming Mossad director, who functioned as Mossad’s deputy chief for the past two years and is known as “D”. His controversial appointment was announced by Netanyahu on Tuesday and led to heavy criticism by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who wasn't told about the decision. "Today, we celebrate the Mossad's exceptional employees, but it's also a special day for you, Mossad's incoming director, who I can't address by name ... You're a leader who grew up serving this country, and we are all positive that you'll know how to protect us as a Mossad director of the entire country and all its citizens," Rivlin said.