Jerusalem—Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has expressed support for the recent launch of the Jerusalem Unity Prize in Memory of Eyal, Gil-ad, and Naftali in a ceremony attended by the families of the three boys and Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, who has been the main initiator behind the prize. It was conceived in partnership with the families of the three boys and a Jerusalem-based organization, Gesher, as a way to perpetuate the spirit of unity felt across Israel and around the world during the days following the boys’ kidnapping.
In his remarks the president said, “In the shadow of the events of last summer, and inspired by that spirit of mutual responsibility which we witnessed, we must continue to encourage all those working to maintain and strengthen that sense, that feeling, of unity and commitment. The Jerusalem Unity Prize reminds us what is acceptable, what is desired, what is appropriate. In awarding this prize, we want to embolden and amplify the positive voices in our society, and focus on the good.”
Speaking during the ceremony with the president, Mayor Barkat remarked, “Out of the intense pain of the boys’ tragic deaths came remarkable unity in large part due to the strength and leadership exhibited by these three families,” he said. “We know that unity is a central value in our identity as a people and this prize will afford us the chance to advance these ideals across Israel and around the world.”
The ceremony was also addressed by the fathers of the three boys. Avi Fraenkel, father of Naftali, said that he recalled his previous visit to the Residence during the days immediately following the kidnapping when their fate remained unknown. “During those days we gained enormous strength from the knowledge that people all around the globe were with us,” he said. “Today we have returned here to ensure that that spirit of unity is preserved and we are confident this award will serve to accomplish that goal.”
Uri Yifrach, father of Eyal, said that he had no doubt that the tragedies of the boys’ death brought together a sense of common bonds within the Jewish people which hadn’t been felt in many years.
This feeling was echoed by Ofir Shear, father of Gil-ad who said, “We feel an obligation to ensure that the personal pain that we have experienced be channeled for the betterment of people all over the world, and that is what we all hope this prize will accomplish.”
The Jerusalem Unity Prize will be presented in three separate categories, each with prizes of up to 100,000 shekel. Winners will be chosen from a committee chaired by the mayor, the parents of the three boys, and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora.
1. Individuals or Organizations - This award will be presented to individuals, entities, or organizations who prove that they have worked in an exemplary manner to advance Jewish unity over an extended period of time.
2. Social Initiatives - This award will be presented to individual visionaries or groups of visionaries who have advanced social programs that challenge the problem of disunity within the greater Jewish community.
3. Israel and the Diaspora - This award will be presented to individuals or groups who have successfully advanced programs that better unite the Diaspora with the land and people of Israel.
In addition to the prize, a special Unity Day is being planned for June 3, 2015 in Jerusalem where the awards will be presented alongside programming to promote unity initiatives. The event is being held on the one year anniversary of the boys’ deaths.
The Jerusalem Unity Prize and Unity Day are being made possible thanks to the support of Ira and Ingeborg Rennert, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein, Robert and Amy Book, David and Sarena Koschitzky, and the UJA Federation of New York.
By JLBWC Staff