The three prize-winners of the annual Moskowitz Prize for Zionism have been announced: Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, Anita Tucker, and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Davidi.
The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, founded by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, was first awarded in 2008. It was established in recognition of the people who put Zionism into action in today's Israeli society -- at times risking their own personal security, placing the collective interest before personal needs, and doing what it takes to ensure a strong, secure Jewish homeland.
Anita Tucker, one of the early pioneers of the Gush Katif settlement enterprise, became one of the leading spokespersons for the residents during the long and intense struggle against the Disengagement.
In 1976, she and her husband Stuart moved southward to develop a new agricultural community named Netzer Hazani – the first in Gush Katif – with the encouragement of the Ministry of Agriculture. Though the Jews were able to make the desert bloom there, the area was originally filled with bald, empty, sand dunes, one former resident said, "with no birds, insects or even weeds. Even the amount of rain was small compared to today's rainfall measurements, old-timers say. Local Arabs, who called the area El Gerara, 'the cursed land,' were later happy when the Jews returned, because the land began to produce and the rain started again.”
For 29 years, the Tuckers lived in Gush Katif, building up Netzer Hazani, a vegetable-raising and packing business, and their family of five children. When they were ultimately expelled in the Disengagement, they lived for 11 months in temporary lodging in dormitories, and now live in the community’s temporary quarters in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim. She now works to help the Gush Katif communities retain their unique, pre-expulsion character of Torah and Land of Israel values, friendly communal relations, and pioneering spirit.
Mrs. Tucker spends much of her time speaking in Jewish communities around the world about the difficulties that the Gush Katif people overcame in order to remain united and receive compensation, in the form of land and housing, for what had been taken from them.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz is the founder and driving force behind the Nahal Hareidi – the first IDF unit organized especially for hareidi-religious soldiers. The framework allows the soldiers to maintain their way of life, including scheduled time for prayers, Torah classes, kosher l’mehadrin food, and the like. Rabbi Schwartz was originally shunned and persecuted within his own hareidi public for his work in Nahal Hareidi.
Rabbi Schwartz, author of dozens of books on Jewish Law and Thought, says he started Nahal Hareidi in order to make sure that Israeli society did not develop into two separate nations, one religious and one secular. “This was a dream of unity,” he explains.
Gen. Aharon Davidi is most well-known for having founded Sar-El, an organization for IDF volunteers from abroad. He began his army career in 1944, volunteering for the Palmach and taking part in the conquest of the city Be’er Sheva. He took part, in increasingly higher-ranking capacities, in the War of Independence, the Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War, and the Yom Kippur War.
In the summer of 1982, then-reserves Gen. Davidi founded Sar-El, with the purpose of recruiting volunteers to help fill the places of reserve soldiers who were called up for the Peace for Galilee War. The organization grew larger, and today has 5,000 volunteers from some 30 countries, serving several weeks each year.
The volunteers chiefly help in logistics, guard duty, medical services, catering and the like. The goal is to free up soldiers for work that requires more training, as well as to forge ties between the volunteers and Israel and the IDF. Some 6,000 Sar-El volunteers have made Aliyah over the years.