update deskIsrael News

Israel Prize 2024 winners announced amid controversies

Traditionally held in Jerusalem, this year's ceremony will take place in Sderot.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, April 26, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/POOL.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, April 26, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/POOL.

Israel’s Education Ministry on Thursday unveiled the full list of recipients of the Israel Prize for 2024, after weeks of controversies surrounding the selection process amid the war with Hamas.

The lifetime achievement awards went to Moshe Edri and Edna Solodar, with the latter receiving the prestigious award posthumously. Solodar passed away one day prior to the announcement.

The prize has been given posthumously several times in the past, most notably to poet Leah Goldberg in 1970, who had died earlier that year.

Solodar, a female pioneer of the kibbutz movement, was celebrated for her extraordinary life journey reflecting Israeli society. A longtime lawmaker, she championed strengthening peripheries, preserving natural heritage and encouraging agriculture while epitomizing unity.

In an unprecedented move, two new categories were introduced this year: Civilian Courage and Mutual Responsibility. The Team Elchanan group, comprised of Menachem Kalmanson and Itiel Zohar, received the Civilian Courage Award for heroically saving lives in the wake of the Hamas massacre in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Cochav Elkayam-Levy and Chen Kogel were honored in the Mutual Responsibility category for their advocacy on behalf of Oct. 7 victims.

The Israel Prize also recognized contributions across various academic and scientific fields. Professors Gershon Ben-Shahar (psychology), Hagai Bergman (life sciences), Vitali Milman (mathematics, computer science and engineering), Yaakov Ritov (economics and statistics) and Tzvi Mazeh (physics) were lauded for their work.

Eyal Waldman, a high-tech entrepreneur who lost his daughter at the Supernova music festival massacre on Oct. 7, was recognized for his contributions to Entrepreneurship and Technological Innovation.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef received the award for Talmudic Literature and Hebrew Law. Miki Berkovich (Outstanding Athlete) and Shlomo Nakdimon (Communications and Visual Communications) rounded out the list of honorees.

Traditionally held in Jerusalem, this year’s ceremony will take place in Sderot, a decision by Education Minister Yoav Kisch to honor the resilience of Gaza border communities.

In March, Kisch announced: “This year, we will hold the Israel Prize ceremony together with the heroic residents of the Gaza border communities in the city of Sderot. The State of Israel is at war, we will honor our soldiers on the front lines, remember our abducted brothers and sisters, and raise the banner of spiritual heroism that has pulsed within us as a people since the dawn of history.

“The Israel Prize is an award of Israeli excellence, and the honor of the recipients is the honor of the State of Israel. This is a time of war, the call of the hour is unity, and together Israeli excellence will stand up to any challenge and defeat every enemy,” he added.

This year’s ceremony has been marred with controversies. The decision to award the prize in new categories, such as “Civilian Heroism,” sparked national debates on the criteria and selection process.

One of the controversies was sparked by Kisch’s decision to have only two categories in the Israel Prize awards this year—those of Civilian Courage and Mutual Responsibility—and to cancel the other categories.

According to critics, Kisch made this initial decision due to the awarding of the Israel Prize to Waldman. The entrepreneur has been a vocal critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

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