Peres, Barak congratulate defense prize winners

The Eliahu Golomb Defense Prize is Israel’s highest accolade.

Peres speaking  311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Peres speaking 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The top brass of the IDF, the Mossad, the Israel Security Agency and others connected with intelligence, safety and security gathered on Tuesday at Beit Hanassi for the annual Eliahu Golomb Defense Prize awards ceremony.
The Eliahu Golomb Defense Prize, awarded this year for the 53rd time, is Israel’s highest accolade, more prestigious even than the Israel Prize, with the essential difference being that its applicants and recipients are anonymous heroes, who seldom if ever receive public recognition beyond the framework of their research.
Their identities remain secret, and the descriptions of the projects which are considered are deliberately vague.
The people engaged in these projects cannot discuss their work with their families, and cannot expect acknowledgement for their achievements beyond an occasional pat on the shoulder from a high ranking officer.
The prize was initiated by founding prime minister David Ben Gurion, who wanted to memorialize Eliahu Golomb, who led the Jewish defense effort during the period of the British Mandate. Golomb was also the chief architect of the Haganah, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
President Shimon Peres surmised that he was the only person at the ceremony who actually knew Eliahu Golomb, who died in 1945 and recalled meetings in Golomb’s small, wooden house.
For Peres, the ceremony was yet another proof that his faith in Israel’s human resources, both militarily and technologically, had not been misplaced.
In 1953, Peres became the youngest director-general of the Defense Ministry, was instrumental in formulating Israel’s defense policy and in 1974 was appointed defense minister.
While Israel is recognized as having one of the most capable armies in the world, what is not known about its defense abilities is no less important than what is known, said Peres, speaking as one who is intimately familiar with those hidden capabilities.
What the IDF has achieved is fantastic, he said. “We have people on whom we can rely.”
Peres commented that it used to be said that the best Jewish brain power was in the Diaspora, where 25 percent of Nobel Prize winners were Jews, 20% of professors in American universities were Jewish and 50% of international chess champions were Jewish.
But Jews in their own country excel just as well, he declared proudly.
Even with the high cost of war and the loss of human life, Israel has not fallen behind, and the IDF is a powerful force in its technology as well as its strategy.
“I want the nation to know this, and I don’t care what conclusions our enemies draw.”
Yet while Israel continues to improve its defense systems, and thereby develop its strength, it must not falter in its efforts for peace, Peres insisted.
He pronounced that this year’s winners were at the top of the technology tree, and emphasized the increasing importance of intellectual capabilities.
Today, geography and topography don’t count in comparison to the speed of missiles, Peres noted. He went on to quote Ben Gurion who said that it was not enough for the IDF to cope with the challenges of today, but that it had to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow as well.
“Even if we have peace,” Peres told the laureates, “your talents will not go to waste.”
Echoing what Peres had said, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the recipients, “Until we achieve a breakthrough for peace, it is you who guarantee the security of Israel.”