Outstanding volunteers recognized at Presidential ceremony

"Each of you has your own way of serving the public," said Rivlin. "You are our hope for the future."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, MK Avigdor Liberman, family and friends attend the funeral of Yehoshua Matza who died yesterday at the age 89, at Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, on December 31, 2020.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, MK Avigdor Liberman, family and friends attend the funeral of Yehoshua Matza who died yesterday at the age 89, at Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, on December 31, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Notwithstanding the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, the annual ceremony at the President’s Residence for outstanding volunteers in the National Civilian Service Authority’s program was conducted in adherence with the most stringent of the regulations set down by the Health Ministry.
Families and friends were not on hand to applaud the honorees. Everyone wore masks, and seating was in small socially distanced clusters.
Not all of the 27 honorees were able to make the trip to Jerusalem. President Reuven Rivlin addressed the group after they received their certificates of excellence, but he was not present when their names were read out together with the places in which they worked.
The president was otherwise occupied in meeting with three soldiers who recently prevented terrorist attacks: Cpl. Lianne Haroush, who was attacked by a terrorist and fought him off; St.-Sgt. Yonatan Shulman, from the Ram Battalion of the Rescue and Training Brigade, who prevented a terrorist attack at the Gitei Evyatar junction; and Cpl. A, a soldier in the Kfir Brigade who prevented a terrorist attack at the Gush Etzion junction.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin met with three soldiers who recently prevented terrorist attacks. (Credit: Mark Neiman / GPO)Israel's President Reuven Rivlin met with three soldiers who recently prevented terrorist attacks. (Credit: Mark Neiman / GPO)
In the main hall of the President’s Residence, National Civilian Service volunteers who had been exempted from the army on religious grounds or because they had physical disabilities were called up one by one as they waited under the outdoor pergola at the entrance of the hall to stand with their certificates. The reception line included Harel Toubi, director-general of the President’s Residence; Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is responsible for National Civilian Service; and Reuven Pinsky, director-general of the National Service Authority.
There was no knocking of elbows or of knuckles and no lowering of masks for the photos.
Rivlin entered the hall after all the certificates had been distributed. In his address, he emphasized the importance of the work being done by National Civilian Service volunteers who represent all strata of society – male and female, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) to secular, Jew, Arab and Druze.
“Each of you has your own way of serving the public,” Rivlin said. He lauded the maturity and independence of the young volunteers and declared them to be an influence on society, since they have been working during difficult times in state institutions, government offices, hospitals, emergency services, police, education and more.
Regarding the pandemic, Rivlin said: “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” but it requires that everyone put their shoulder to the wheel to overcome the virus.
Referencing the different backgrounds of the volunteers, he said their common denominator was their willingness to volunteer for the benefit of society.
“You are our hope for the future,” Rivlin said, adding that their parents and grandparents could be pride of them.
Hanegbi, who thanked them in the name of the government, said their willingness to contribute during the coronavirus crisis despite the difficulties involved filled everyone with pride and emotion.
A video in which the honorees spoke of why they served and what it had done for them was screened prior to Pinsky’s remarks. Comments included: “It gives me a sense of mission,” “It allows you to do what you’re capable of doing,” “It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” “I receive more than I give,” “It gives me a feeling of belonging,” “I feel useful” and “I work day and night and even on Shabbat to see a smile on a patient’s face.”
The video also featured some of the CEOs of places where the volunteers work. Without exception, they had the highest praise for them and the warmest appreciation.
Pinsky said the volunteers were “a ray of light” coming from every sector of society and from every part of the country.
“You have been there to help people who needed someone to hold their hand,” he said. “You all have done more than the state obligates you to do.”
Pinsky said he hoped they would continue to volunteer to serve society and individuals who need them all their lives.
Magen David Adom volunteer Baraa Glata, speaking on behalf of all the outstanding volunteers, shared what it meant for her to tend to coronavirus patients.
“It taught me the importance of caring for other people,” she said.