Michael Freund
Michael FreundMoskowitz Prize

The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism declared on Thursday the names of the winners of the annual Lion of Zion prize.

Hundreds of candidates were fielded for this year's prize, and the winners were selected after a protracted process. The prize committee got an up-close look at some of the most impressive individual Zionist efforts being carried out at present, in the face of the complexities facing Israel in the fields of education, settlement and social action.

The first winner of the Lion of Zion prize for 5774 (2014) is Michael Freund, who founded the Shavei Israel organization in 2002. The organization was established to strengthen the ties of the Jewish people with groups of Jewish origin and others who wish to become part of the Jewish people. Shavei Israel has been reaching out to the Bnei Menashe of India, 'hidden Jews' of Poland and of Italy, the Bnei Anousim of Portugal and others.

The second winner of the Lion of Zion prize is Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, founder of the NGO "Job Katif," who in 2008 received the President's Medal for Volunteerism for his work in helping people expelled from the Katif Bloc in the 2005 Disengagement find employment.

The third winner, Dr. Gabi Barkay, is an Israeli archeologist who has led the Council against Destruction of the Antiquities of the Temple Mount. In 2005, Dr. Barkay and archeologist Yitzhak Zweig initiated the project for saving invaluable antiquities by sifting through the dirt that the Muslim Waqf illegally removed from the Temple Mount between 1996 and 2001.

The project was born out of a need to save the Temple Mount antiquities, after the Waqf allowed deep digging inside the Mount. "Dr. Barkai led the public outcry despite the opposition of his colleagues. He continues to struggle for the Jewish nation's right to the sacred mountain,” wrote the prize committee.

Spirit of Zion Award for new initiatives by young Israelis 

The Spirit of Zion Award for new initiatives by young Israelis was granted to Captain (res.) Yosef Aftamo, head of the Tzeida Laderech program for Meaningful Service, and Netanel Ellinson, founder of the Hiker's Guide project.

Aftamo made aliyah from Ethiopia with his parents in 1991, when he was five years old. He was educated at the Bnei Akiva yeshiva at Ofakim, studied at the pre-military academy in Kiryat Malachi, and served in the Paratroop Brigade as a fighter and commander.

In the course of his military service, Aftamo served as a mentor for a group of soldiers of Ethiopian origin, and worked to strengthened their feelings of self-worth and motivation as citizens. The Tzeida Laderech program for Meaningful Service helps youth of Ethiopian origin to realize their potential through military service.

Ellinson's Hiker's Guide project was launched six years ago, following the deaths of his friends, IDF soldiers David Rubin and Ahikam Amihai, in a terror attack at Nahal Telem. Ellinson and another friend, Dvir Raviv, decided to regularly launch hikes throughout Judea and Samaria, free of charge, so that people would not be afraid to hike in the areas following the murder of Rubin and Amihai.

The hikes became steadily more popular and number in the hundreds, annually. They are carried out with military approval.

In addition, Ellinson and Raviv published two volumes of “The Samaria Hiker's Guide” with over 650 pages of colorful and informative content, including special maps for each tour suggested.

The Moskowitz Prize was established by Dr. Irving Moskowitz and his wife, Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz, who is also the Prize Committee Chair. The Committee includes Prof. Moshe Arens, Rabbi Yedidya Atlas, Amb.Yoram Ettinger, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Brig. General Avigdor Kahalani, Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Rabbi Daniel Moskowitz.