Why does the Genesis Prize exist in the first place?

Why does the State of Israel feel the need to present an award to people whose sole accomplishments are personal and career success?

Tzvi Lev

OpEds Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Genesis Prize Ceremony 2014
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Genesis Prize Ceremony 2014

As urban legend has it, a professor at the Technion once tasked his students with creating a way to build a pipe that would transport blood from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona all the way down to Eilat.

When the day for submissions arrived, students turned in thick folders full of charts and complicated diagrams aiming to successfully transport the blood across Israel. After reviewing the papers, the professor announced to his startled students that they had all failed the assignment.

"None of you asked the obvious question," he told them. "What is the point of building a pipe that would bring blood across the country?"

The internet exploded last week after Natalie Portman announced that she would not attend the Genesis Prize ceremony. Commentator after pundit wrote long and pithy essays, with each alternatively bashing or praising the actress. Amid this media flood, however, no one has asked why the Genesis Prize even exists in the first place.

The prize is officially presented by State of Israel, the Jewish Agency, and the Genesis Foundation. Why does the Jewish State feel the need to honor people whose sole accomplishments are personal and career success?

Had we been honoring those who benefited Israel, such as the founder of Birthright, then it would be understandable. Yet the previous winners did nothing to benefit Israel, and even represent values at odds with those held by most Israelis.

Michael Douglas, the 2015 winner, is not even halakhically Jewish. 2013 winner Itzchak Perlman fled Israel and lives a comfortable life in New York. These are the role models who deserve to be presented by a prize sanctioned by the State of Israel?

In addition, did Michael Bloomberg really need this gift when he is the 7th-richest person in the United States and the 10th richest person in the world?

Natalie Portman did a despicable act and deserves every bit of vitriol the Israeli public has heaped on her. However, the public needs to ask why the Jewish State participates in a prize when its only criteria for deserving it is a hefty bank account.

Tzvi Lev is a newswriter at Arutz Sheva and is studying towards a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies at Ariel University. He served as a company sergeant in an IDF combat unit.