President Peres announces first presidential awards of distinction


President Peres and former President Navon (Photo: Uri Lentz/Flash 90)

(Communicated by the Office of the President)

The recipients of Israel’s first Presidential Awards of Distinction were announced on Thursday, 9 February 2012. The recipients are private individuals and organizations that have made unique and outstanding contributions to Israeli society and the State of Israel’s image around the world, and which constitute examples of initiative, innovation, creativity and vision. Similar awards are traditional in Canada (the Order of Canada), France (the Legion of Honor) and Italy (the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic).

President Shimon Peres and the members of the advisory council chaired by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and former President Yitzhak Navon this morning (Thursday), 9 February 2012, announced the recipients of the first Presidential Awards of Distinction:

Henry Kissinger, for his unique contribution to Israel and to peace in the Middle East, and for being a statesman with foresight, creativity and vision;

Attorney Uri Slonim, the President of Variety Israel, for his voluntarism regarding Israel’s POWs and MIAs and for his work at Variety Israel;

Judy Feld Carr, for secretly saving thousands of Syrian Jews, including young people and entire families, for over 25 years;

The Rashi Foundation, which was established by the Leven family;

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, for his unique and extraordinary contribution to Jewish culture and education; and

Zubin Mehta, Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, for his unique contribution to the world of Israeli music.

President Peres began this morning’s ceremony  by saying that, "I am proud to begin a tradition in which I, as the President of Israel, express appreciation and esteem for individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to the State of Israel and to all of humanity.

I am old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas. The world has learned to say thank-you and the time has come for us as well to thank great people who have served as examples for the younger generation so that we might pass on the message that every person can be as great as his deeds and his ideas. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the advisory committee for their dedicated work and for being pioneering partners in the launch of the Presidential Award of Distinction." 

The President addressed the recipients: "You are shining example for us all. The honor is ours that we give you the Presidential Award of Distinction today."

The actual medallions were designed by Bezalel Academy of arts and Design graduate Yossi Matityahu and feature the North Star, symbolizing the right path, and a menorah, symbolizing the renewal of the State of Israel and the strong and continuous link between past and present. The medallion is crowned with [the Hebrew] words from I Samuel 9:2, "From his shoulders and upward," which, to the artist, symbolize the unique and rare characters of the recipients.

 President Peres announces first presidential awards of distinction

Photo: Yossi Matityahu

In addition to retired Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and former President Yitzhak Navon, the advisory committee included: Prof. Suzie Navot, Al-Qasemi Academic College of Education, Director Dr. Mohammed Issawi, Kiryat Ono Chief Rabbi Dr. Ratzon Arusi, Check Point Chairman and CEO Gil Shwed and Prof. Anita Shapira.