Alter (L) receiving award
Alter (L) receiving awardUTO

Israeli illustrator and cartoonist Avital Alter was the first to receive the prestigious "Freedom of Expression" award from the Universal Tolerance Organization (UTO) this week, during its second annual Global Tolerance Forum. 

Two Iranian exiles, Mohammed Mostafaei and Maryam Fagihimani, presented Alter with the award, which was produced specifically for the event, in a special ceremony in Drammen, Norway. 

Alter cited Jewish religious principles in her acceptance speech, as well as Jewish customs which relate to Art. 

"Art helps the world to see humanity in a new and different way," Alter explained. "Art can help us see the good and the whole, the broken and the wanting." 

Alter explained that being "part and parcel of a religious Jew" is appreciating "all that is created in the Universe," citing the Birkat Halevana, the blessing on the moon, as an example. 

"Both religion and Art make our world rich," she continued, adding that the Temples, when they were built, combined creative and religious expression. 

The award itself was a replica of the Cyrus Cylinder, which Alter described as "a remarkable symbol of freedom, true peace, and the right of the Jews to return to Zion." The Cyrus Cylinder, currently on display in the British Museum, is one of the first declarations of human rights, dating to the reign of Cyrus the Great (Persia, 538-539 BCE). 

Cyrus cylinder award
Cyrus cylinder awardAvital Alter

Alter has illustrated for 14 years, and her comics have appeared in Yediot Aharonot; her projects have appeared in several Israeli and European museums. 

Her caricature won a contest held in memory of the cartoonists and editors murdered in January's Charlie Hebdo massacre; hers against 700 other entries from across the globe.