Mak­ing the world a bet­ter place

EMET Prize hon­ors nine out­stand­ing in­di­vid­u­als in their an­nual cer­e­mony

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - ARAB MEDIA - NOA AMOUYAL This ar­ti­cle was writ­ten in co­op­er­a­tion with the EMET Prize.

When David D’Or took the stage and be­gan his soar­ing ren­di­tion of Arik Ein­stein’s “Ani Ve’ata” (“You and I”), his words de­scribed not only the iconic late singer’s vi­sion for the fu­ture of Is­rael, but also the es­teemed in­di­vid­u­als sit­ting be­hind him.

Those nine in­di­vid­u­als were hon­ored last week at the Jerusalem The­ater for not only be­ing the best in their re­spec­tive fields, but for also – like the song says – aim­ing to change the world for the bet­ter.

As win­ners of the EMET Prize, which cel­e­brates Is­raeli ex­cel­lence, they rep­re­sented the cream of the crop from a va­ri­ety of fields. The win­ners in­cluded Michal Rovner and Sharon Yaari for Pho­tog­ra­phy; Prof. Meir La­hav and Prof. Les­lie Leis­erowitz for Chem­istry; Prof. Nahum Rakover for Jewish Law; Prof. Hanna En­gel­berg-Kulka and Prof. Ephrat Levy-La­had for Ge­net­ics, and Prof. Eva Il­louz and Prof. Hanna Her­zog for So­ci­ol­ogy.

But their sto­ries are much more than achiev­ing the pin­na­cle of suc­cess in their ca­reers. In­stead, they tell the tale of how a small agrar­ian so­ci­ety was able to trans­form into a hub of knowl­edge and in­no­va­tion in less than 100 years.

“The de­sire for ex­cel­lence, dili­gence and pas­sion for cu­rios­ity are not only char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Jewish peo­ple from the dawn of his­tory, but rather the ba­sic guide­lines on which the state was founded,” Deputy Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice Michael Oren said at the cer­e­mony.

“Is­rael of 2018 is seen not only as a leader in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, but also as a leader in the field of thought and sci­ence. You are the ul­ti­mate proof of this. It is not in vain that many coun­tries see fit to in­vest here, in our small coun­try,” Oren, who at­tended on be­half of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin

Ne­tanyahu, said of the awardees.

“These win­ners are ded­i­cated to mak­ing the world a bet­ter place,” the night’s em­cee Gal Ravid told the au­di­ence in the Jerusalem The­ater.

And although the prize is cel­e­brat­ing 18 years, it has reached a laud­able mile­stone with its de­ci­sion to be­stow five of its nine prizes on women.

“Giv­ing the prize is spe­cial this year be­cause out of the nine win­ners five are women. You don’t see that kind of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in other prizes. This is a call for women in all fields, to also claim their right­ful ac­knowl­edg­ment in other dis­ci­plines,” for­mer Supreme Court jus­tice Ja­cob Turkel, chair­man of the prize’s award com­mit­tee, said.

The prize’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Arie Dub­son added that the ac­com­plish­ments of the win­ners could not oc­cur just any­where. To un­cover such ground­break­ing dis­cov­er­ies whether they be in sci­ence, math or so­ci­ol­ogy, one must live in a just and open so­ci­ety where free­dom of ex­pres­sion is en­cour­aged, he ar­gued.

“These achieve­ments can only hap­pen in a plu­ral­is­tic so­ci­ety where free­dom of speech is a given right. I be­lieve that who­ever lives here wants se­cu­rity and free­dom,” he said to rap­tur­ous ap­plause.

That is not to say that the Jewish state is not with­out its fault. Oren crit­i­cized Is­rael for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the brain drain phe­nom­e­non and ar­gued that had any of these win­ners (five of whom are im­mi­grants) planned to come to Is­rael to­day, they may not have been able to achieve the same suc­cess.

“As a coun­try that cham­pi­ons the in­gath­er­ing of ex­iles and seeks to pro­vide a home for ev­ery Jew re­gard­less where he is in the world, Is­rael does not do enough to ap­peal to the new waves of im­mi­grants,” he lamented. “I fear that the five win­ners would have found it dif­fi­cult to im­mi­grate to­day had Is­rael ap­plied their cur­rent ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion back then.”

How­ever, the night was an op­ti­mistic one that fo­cused on the value of knowl­edge and ed­u­ca­tion’s abil­ity to open doors – even if that knowl­edge, on the sur­face, ap­pears es­o­teric and with­out prac­ti­cal ev­ery­day use.

“‘The world has al­ways been a sorry and con­fused sort of place, yet po­ets and artists and sci­en­tists have ig­nored the fac­tors that would, if at­tended to, par­a­lyze them,’” prizewin­ner Il­louz said dur­ing her key­note speech, quot­ing renowned Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tor Abra­ham Flexner. “‘But what is in­fin­itely more im­por­tant is that we shall be strik­ing the shack­les off the hu­man mind and set­ting it free for the ad­ven­tures which in our own day have, on the one hand, taken Hale and Ruther­ford and Ein­stein and their peers mil­lions upon mil­lions of miles into the ut­ter­most realms of space, and, on the other, loosed the bound­less en­ergy im­pris­oned in the atom..’”

Il­louz also ex­tolled the value of knowl­edge for its abil­ity to be ut­terly non-dis­crim­i­na­tory and not lim­ited to gen­der, race or re­li­gion, and judg­ing by the di­ver­sity of win­ners who graced the stage, this seems ex­cep­tion­ally ac­cu­rate this year.

“There are no chan­de­liers in here, I see. That’s good,” D’Or joked in the mid­dle of the cer­e­mony, re­call­ing an em­bar­rass­ing mo­ment dur­ing a per­for­mance in Latin Amer­ica where he hit a high note that shat­tered an an­tique chan­de­lier hang­ing up above.

Although his singing didn’t re­sult in a po­ten­tial hazard this time around, his boom­ing voice singing “Some­where Over the Rain­bow” reached ev­ery cor­ner of the the­ater. And the mes­sage of the song, a yearn­ing for a per­fect world that seems so close but yet so far en­cap­su­lated the dream of Is­rael where ev­ery­thing can (and should) be pos­si­ble.

(Pho­tos: Kobi Kal­manovitz/Dudi Salem)

DR. MICHAEL OREN ad­dresses the crowd who gath­ered at the Jerusalem The­ater.

AMN FOUN­DA­TION ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Arie Dub­son speaks at the EMET Prize cer­e­mony.

EMET PRIZE win­ners pose with the award com­mit­tee as they re­ceive their prizes on stage.

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