Worthy citizens of Jerusalem

Among this year’s Yakir Yerushalayim laureates are Shalva founder Rabbi Kalman Samuels and Hadassah Oncology head Prof. Tamar Yablonski-Peretz.

Shalva founder Rabbi Kalman Samuels  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shalva founder Rabbi Kalman Samuels
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion has awarded 12 Jerusalemites the highest honor the city can bestow – the title of “Yakir Yerushalayim.” The award is given to citizens over the age of 65 who have made a contribution to the city.
“It is very moving to me to award the title of Yakir Yerushalayim to women and men who have worked for many years to promote the city in every way possible,” Lion said in a statement. “They have all made significant contributions to the capital of Israel and to the people of Israel.”
Some of the awardees this year are famous, such as singer Yehoram Gaon. Others are local activists, like Malka Yarom, an art teacher for decades who founded an organization “Em Habanim” (Mother of Sons) which gives social and emotional support to single-parent families in Jerusalem. Others are religious figures like Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger, the longtime rabbi of the Gilo neighborhood and a judge on the religious court.
Another recipient is Chaim Cohen, who was born in Spain and made aliyah with his family in 1950, living in a ma’abara or transit camp. He studied social work and worked for many years for the municipality dealing with youth in Jerusalem.
Of the 12, four are women, including Prof. Tamar Yablonski-Peretz, who heads Hadassah’s Sharett Institute of Oncology.
“I’m very proud and happy,” she says in an interview. “I’m honored to be part of this chain of all of the people who contributed to Jerusalem. I think Jerusalem is a wonderful and inspiring city, and I am honored to have played a modest part in it.”
Yablonski-Peretz was born in Poland and came to Israel at age five. She grew up in Tel Aviv, but moved to Jerusalem after the army to attend medical school at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has headed Hadassah’s Oncology Institute since 1994, and manages a team of 150 doctors and other medical professionals. She is also researching the genetics of cancer, and collaborates with the Palestinian cancer center at the Augusta Victoria hospital in east Jerusalem.
She said that the Israeli medical system works well, but there is always room for improvement.
“I’d like to see more prevention and early detection in the field of treating patients with cancer,” she said. “We can do more education with all groups in Jerusalem. I’d like to see more interaction between the hospital and the community all over Jerusalem.”
Another winner of the award is Rabbi Kalman Samuels, the founder of Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities. Shalva treats more than 1,000 children every day with programs ranging from preschool to adulthood.
“It is just such a wonderful gift,” Samuels said, of his designation as a Yakir Yerushalayim. “The mayor has always been supportive of Shalva, both before and after he was mayor.”
Samuels said Shalva has a $17 million annual budget. Just over one-third comes from the government, another third is income from their facilities including their café, and about 30% is from private donations. He said he spends much of his time fundraising, and this honor might help.
“The nature of these awards are not something you can calculate but there is no question that it provides an organization with tremendous credibility,” he says. “People say to themselves, if the mayor of Jerusalem gave Shalva an award, everything I heard about it must be true.”
The awards will be bestowed in a ceremony on Jerusalem Day this spring.