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Israel Prize for lifetime achievement to go to veteran politician, bereaved mother

The two esteemed citizens will be present with the Jewish state’s highest honor on Independence Day in a Jerusalem ceremony attended by the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker and chief justice.

Miriam Peretz and David Levy. Credit: Yonatan Sindel, KOKO.
Miriam Peretz and David Levy. Credit: Yonatan Sindel, KOKO.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and inspirational speaker Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in battle, were named this week as this year’s recipients of the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

The Israel Prize is the state’s highest honor. It is presented annually on Independence Day in a state ceremony in Jerusalem attended by the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker and chief justice.

Levy, 80, was born in Rabat, Morocco, and immigrated to Israel in 1957. He was elected to the Knesset in 1969 and went on to serve as a lawmaker until 2006. Levy was one of the first Sephardi politicians to rise to a senior political position, and his terms in different government saw him serve as immigrant absorption, housing and foreign minister, as well as deputy prime minister.

“David Levy’s personal story is the story of a boy who immigrated to Israel from Morocco to a transit camp and then a development town in the periphery, and from there jumped to the heart of public and social activity within the melting pot of Israeli society,” the Israel Prize committee wrote in its announcement.

Levy was congratulated by lawmakers from across the political spectrum. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called him a trailblazer, saying he paved the way for others by showing them that it was possible to break through from the periphery to the heart of Israeli society.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose ministry oversees the Israel Prize committee, personally arrived at Miriam Peretz’s home on Thursday to tell her she is to be awarded the Israel Prize.

Peretz was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and came to Israel in 1964 at the age of 10. The mother of two fallen Golani Brigade soldiers—Uriel, killed in Lebanon in 1998 at the age of 22; and Eliraz, killed in the Gaza Strip in 2010 at age 31—became an inspirational speaker, devoting her life to educational activity with teenagers and soldiers.

Bennett posted a video of an emotional Peretz as he delivered the news that she was to be honored on Independence Day.

“I have just arrived at Miriam Peretz’s home to personally tell her that she was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement for strengthening the Jewish Israeli spirit,” Bennett tweeted. “Miriam did not choose the harsh circumstances of her life but chose to live and revive an entire people. She is the mother of all of us,” he wrote.

The Israel Prize committee noted in its announcement that “Miriam Peretz has devoted her life to education, and imparting Jewish and Zionist values to youth and soldiers, and even to communities around the world in order to light our way and strengthen our hands.”

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