Algemeiner Advisory Board Chairman Elie Wiesel, Film Director Steven Spielberg to be Awarded Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction
by Joshua Levitt
The Algemeiner’s Advisory Board Chairman Professor Elie Wiesel and film director Steven Spielberg, along with five Israelis, will be awarded Israel’s Medal of Distinction, the country’s highest honor, the office of Israeli President Shimon Peres announced in a statement Thursday.
The statement said that the newly announced winners of the prestigious medal are being recognized for “outstanding contributions to Tikkun Olam (Bettering the World), Israeli society and the State of Israel’s image around the world,” with “initiative, innovation, creativity and vision.”
Professor Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor is one of the world’s leading Jewish writers and intellectuals, has published over 40 books and has been awarded a host of literary prizes. Wiesel was also among The Algemeiner Journal’s original writers, when the paper was founded in 1972.
Steven Spielberg is being awarded the medal for his contribution to cinema over the past 50 years and, specifically, his unique contribution to the memory of the Holocaust, as director of the Oscar-winning, Schindler’s List, one of the most important Holocaust films in the history of cinema.
Five Israelis will also be awarded the prize:
Brig. Gen (res.) Avigdor Kahalani is receiving the award 40 years after fighting in the Yom Kippur War, for which he received Israel’s Medal of Valor, for his leadership and lifelong contribution to Israel’s security.
Rabbi Elimelech Firer who, with no formal medical training, created a unique medical network which today serves as a central focal point for those requiring medical assistance and consultation.
Dr. Zvi (Harry) Tabor moved to Israel as a young scientist, created the National Physical Laboratory of Israel and played a prominent role in Israel’s solar energy program.
Avi Naor is the founder, chairman and driving force of Or Yarok, the association for safer driving in Israel, an organization he founded following the death of his son in a traffic accident.
Additionally, a member of Israel’s security services who, the President’s statement said, “must remain anonymous,” will receive the award.
The actual medals feature an image of the North Star to symbolize the right path, and a menorah, the symbol of Israel and the continuous link between past and present. The medal is crowned with the biblical words from Samuel 9:2 “from his shoulders and upward.”
Previous winners of the award include U.S. President Obama, former U.S. President Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, the Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr. Zubin Mehta, The Rashi Foundation and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.
The advisory committee for the Presidential Medal of Distinction includes retired Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, former President Yitzhak Navon, Professor Suzie Navot, Dr. Mohammed Issawi, Rabbi Dr. Ratzon Arusi, Gil Shwed and Professor Anita Shapira.