Thirteen officers and wardens of the Israel Prisons Service received certificates of honor and merit at a ceremony at Beit Hanassi on Tuesday. In characterizing the IPS, President Shimon Peres said that it was "one of the most essential national services, yet at the same time almost one of the most anonymous in the state of Israel." For all that, he said, the IPS was not only a framework for keeping prisoners behind bars, but also played a part in law enforcement, social and educational rehabilitation and safeguarding Israel's security. Peres said that the job, despite its importance, held no glamour. The president described it as a Sisyphean struggle with a difficult population. Wardens, he said, were required to be a policeman, a psychologist and a social worker all in one. The success of the IPS collectively and individually was deserving of far greater recognition than it received, said Peres. Peres said that when the IPS was established in 1949, there were only 15 prisoners in the country's jails. Today, not counting 9,000 top security prisoners, there are 15,000. The president had high praise for the IPS's work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but he was particularly lavish in commending the manner in which the IPS treated terrorists. Given the circumstances, these people received the most humane and considerate treatment possible, said Peres, citing nutritious food, medical services, educational facilities, freedom of worship, and regular visits from the Red Cross and any other obligations to which Israel is subject under international law. There was a significant difference between Israel's attitude towards even the most brutal of security prisoners and how Hizbullah or Hamas treated captive Israelis, noted Peres. In congratulating the 13 honorees, IPS Commissioner Lt.-Gen. Benny Kaniak said that they represented 8,000 people who did outstanding work guaranteeing Israel's safety and security. "Some of them see the whites of the eyes of terrorists and violent criminals every day of the year, and still have to treat them with respect and dignity," he said. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said the IPS had gone through a tremendous revolution over the past three years, doubling its work force from 4,000 to 8,000. No one in Israel would want to think of prisoners behind bars escaping and becoming a menace to society, said Dichter, crediting the IPS for ensuring that prisoners remain behind bars for as long as the law has put them there. Until he became public security minister, he said, he had never realized the trepidation of judges at the thought that prisoners in their courts might escape. Upgrading the prisoner escort service has tightened security to the extent that most judges are no longer afraid, Dichter said.