Yakir Yerushalayim Ceremony
Yakir Yerushalayim CeremonyShay Shahaf PR

On Tuesday September 8 Jerusalem celebrated some of its most honorary citizens with the ‘Yakir Yerushalayim,’ Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem, award ceremony recognizing 12 Jerusalem residents over the age of 65 who have impacted the capital and Israel as a whole with their life’s work. The ‘Yakir Yerushalayim’ award is the highest honor bestowed by the city and was presented by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. Originally scheduled to take place on Jerusalem Day, as is traditionally customary, the ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related health regulations.

“It is very moving for me to award the title of Yakir Yerushalayim to women and men who have worked for many years to promote the city in every possible way,” said Lion. “They have all made significant contributions to the capital of Israel and to the people of Israel.”

Kalman Samuels, Founder and President of Shalva- The Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, was among this year’s laureates. He and his wife Malki established Shalva 30 years ago to provide rehabilitative care and support to children with disabilities and their families and create services which were lacking for their own son Yossi in the late 1970s. Yossi became blind, deaf and acutely hyperactive at the age of eleven months as a result of an injury from a faulty vaccine.

Founded with the love and devotion of Yossi’s parents, Shalva has developed to become a staple of Israeli social services and an internationally recognized leader in the field of disability care and inclusion. The Shalva National Center is one of the world’s largest centers of its kind and houses rehabilitative programs for 2,000 individuals with disabilities as well as some of Israel’s most advanced disability accessible facilities.

“I am grateful to Mayor Moshe Lion and the committee which has chosen me and Shalva,” said Samuels at the Yakir Yerushalayim award ceremony on Tuesday. “This award does not belong to me alone; rather, it gives recognition to an entire organization and its hundreds of employees and volunteers who give their whole hearts, day-in and day-out, on behalf of our children and families.”

The laureates included medical professionals, academics, cultural icons, religious figures, and social activists. Among them were Hadassah Oncology Head Professor Tamar Yablonski-Peretz, famous Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon, as well as Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger, religious court judge and senior rabbi of the Gilo neighborhood.

The ceremony opened with a moving performance by the Shalva Band, one of the Shalva organization’s most famous inclusion projects. The band is comprised of exceptionally talented musicians and vocalists with disabilities whose musical repertoire incorporates messages of hope and inclusion. The Shalva Band rose to stardom in 2019 through the Rising Star to the Eurovision television competition and their jaw-dropping performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel-Aviv which sent waves of impact across the globe.