In honor of International Nurses Day, celebrated around the world on May 12, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited nurses and representatives from Israel’s Health Ministry to be honored at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The large contingent of nurses, lead by Nurses Union chairwoman Ilana Cohen and Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, were welcomed by the president, who spoke of the “physically difficult, challenging and sensitive” task of nursing.

“Medical care, particularly the public system, must be at the top of our list of priorities,” Rivlin told the nurses. “You need conditions that allow you to do your jobs in the best possible way, that respect the work you do, and without violence of any kind. Thank you for your contribution to society, to the Israeli people. There are no people more worthy than you to be here.”

He also praised the nurses for contributing to coexistence, noting that their patients come from all of Israel’s ethnic, religious and socioeconomic strata.

In addition, Rivlin thanked them for the excellent care of his own wife, Nechama, before, during and after her lung transplant. Rivlin was not present at the event; she is still recuperating in the hospital.

Cohen praised Israel’s nurses as “the most important asset in ensuring the public health system is stable and strong.”

“Protecting their status, their conditions of employment, their working conditions and professionalism is a national interest of the highest priority for the State of Israel and its citizens,” she said. “Once a nurse, always a nurse.”