Israel Prize (Hebrew: פרס ישראל) is an award handed out
by the State of
Israel and is generally regarded as the state's
highest cultural honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli
Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of
the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Knesset
(Israel's legislature), and the Supreme Court President. The prize was
established in 1953 at the initiative of the Minister of Education
Ben-Zion Dinor, who himself went on to win the prize in 1958 and
1 Awarding the prize
6 In popular culture
8 External links
Awarding the prize
The prize is awarded in the following four areas, with the precise
subfields changing from year to year in a cycle of 4 to 7 years,
except for the last area, which is awarded annually:
the humanities, social sciences, and Jewish studies
the natural and exact sciences
culture, arts, communication and sports
lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the nation (since
The recipients of the prize are Israeli citizens or organizations who
have displayed excellence in their field(s), or have contributed
strongly to Israeli culture. The winners are selected by committees of
judges, who pass on their recommendations to the Minister of
Education. Prize winners are elected by ad-hoc committees, appointed
by the minister of education for each category each year. Decisions of
the committee must be unanimous. The prize money was NIS 75,000 as of
Main article: List of
Israel Prize recipients
As of 2009, the prize has been awarded 633 times. Prominent winners
include individuals such as Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Martin Buber, Abba
Eban, A. B. Yehoshua,
Israel Aumann, Golda Meir, Amos Oz, Ephraim
Kishon, Naomi Shemer,
David Benvenisti and Teddy Kollek, and
organizations such as
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jewish Agency,
Yad Vashem and Jewish National Fund. Though the prize is generally
awarded to Israeli citizens only, in exceptional cases it can be
awarded to non-Israelis who have held Israeli residency for many
Zubin Mehta received a special award of the
Israel Prize in
1991. Mehta is originally from India, and is music director of the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
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The decision to award the prize to specific individuals has sometimes
led to impassioned political debate. In 1993, the strong reaction of
then Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin against the nomination of Yeshayahu
Leibowitz led Leibowitz to decline the prize. In 2004, Education and
Culture Minister Limor Livnat, twice sent the decision to award the
prize to sculptor
Yigal Tumarkin back to the prize committee. Cases in
which the decision was brought before the Supreme Court of Israel
included the prizes given to publicist Shmuel Shnitzer, politician
Shulamit Aloni, professor Zeev Sternhell and Maccabi Tel Aviv
basketball club chairman Shimon Mizrahi.
In February 2015, Prime Minister
Benyamin Netanyahu vetoed the
appointment of two members of the selection panel for the
in Literature after they had already started their work, prompting the
other three members, including Ziva Ben-Porat, to resign in
protest. Netanyahu explained that the two panel members were
politically unsuitable and that "[t]oo often, it seemed that the
extreme panel members were bestowing the prizes on their friends".
One of the candidates for the prize, Yigal Schwartz of the Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev withdrew his nomination and called on other
candidates to do the same, writing that the situation was an
"unprecedented scandal", and that the action was a "continuation of
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s deliberate policy of undermining
Israel’s elites to gain votes from other groups." Over the next
few days, members of the committees for the literary research and film
prizes also resigned, leaving only two members from the original 13 of
the three committees, and many other candidates for the prizes
withdrew their nominations.
David Grossman withdrew his candidature
with the explanation that "Netanyahu's move is a cynical and
destructive ploy that violates the freedom of spirit, thought and
creativity of Israel, and I refuse to cooperate with it".
International Convention Center
In popular culture
In the film Footnote, father and son scholars compete for the Israel
prize, straining their already complex relationship.
^ Reich, Bernard; Goldberg, David H. (2016). Historical Dictionary of
Israel. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 278.
^ Marom, Daniel. "The Role of Jewish Studies Scholars in Early Zionist
Education". Mandel Foundation. Archived from the original on
2011-07-21. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
^ Ben-Zion Dinur:
^ a b c Leave the prize winners in peace The
Jerusalem Post, May 1,
^ Or Kashti (Feb 11, 2015). "
Israel Prize for Literature faces
cancellation as judges resign". Haaretz.
^ a b Jonathan Lis (Feb 11, 2015). "Netanyahu:
Israel Prize judges
include too many anti-Zionist extremists". Haaretz.
^ a b Nirit Anderman and Ori Kashti (Feb 12, 2015). "David Grossman
Israel Prize in protest of Netanyahu's interference".
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Official website (in Hebrew)
October, 2006: Ariel Sharon's disputable nomination for
Israel Prize -
From Ariel Sharon' Life Story, biog