JERUSALEM (JWN)—President Shimon Peres introduced Israel’s highest civilian honor in a ceremony at Beit Hanassi on Thursday. The President’s Medal will be awarded annually to six honorees, Israelis or non-Israelis, “who have made an outstanding contribution to the State of Israel or to humanity, through their talents, services, or in any other form,” according to the President’s Office.
Peres announced the first recipients of the honor as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Judith Feld-Carr, a Canadian-Jewish musician and human rights activist who helped smuggle thousands of Jews out of Syria; the Rashi Foundation, a non-governmental organization; Talmud scholar Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael; conductor Zubin Mehta; and attorney Uri Slonim.
“I’m old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas,” Peres said at the ceremony. “The world has learned to say ‘thank you,’ and it’s time that we also thank people of stature, people who set an example for the younger generation, so as to send a message that any person can be as great as his greatest action or thought,” he said.
The award, apparently meant to be the Israeli version of the French Legion of Honor, is in the form of a medallion designed by Judaica artist Yossi Matityahu.