Education Minister Yoav Galant announced today (Tuesday) that the winners of the Israel Prize in the field of Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State are ZAKA Chairman and Founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav and former Foreign Ministry director-general Joseph Chechnover.
Among the reasons given for awarding the Israel Prize to Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the committee noted that the award was given to him: “For his outstanding contribution both in advancing assistance at disaster events and for his work in creating unity and bringing people together in Israeli society. For three decades, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav has headed the ZAKA Search and Rescue organization, which has become an essential arm in rescue efforts, saving lives and identifying the victims in mass disasters in Israel and around the world. He serves as an example and role model for the spirit of volunteering in Israeli society in all its forms. Yehuda Meshi-Zahav dedicates his life to unity within Israel out of a sense of mission and a genuine belief in the need to build bridges and maintain a dialogue between all sectors of society as the key to a shared existence in the State of Israel.”
ZAKA Chairman and Founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who recently lost his brother and his parents in the same month, said: “In a month full of tears of pain and sorrow after the triple family loss that I have suffered, finally my eyes shed tears of happiness with the joyous news given to me my Education Minister Yoav Gallant that I am to receive the Israel Prize. Later in the day, I will go up to the grave of my late parents to tell them the good news and give them moments of contentment.
"The award is not only mine but belongs to the thousands of ZAKA volunteers in Israel and around the world who dedicate their lives to helping others, saving lives and honoring the dead.
"Thousands of ZAKA volunteers understand that everyone has the place and opportunity to contribute, volunteer, help and assist others regardless of religion, race or gender. In our volunteering for the citizens of the country, we connect all sectors of the nation.
"I thank Education Minister Yoav Galant and the committee members for this joyous decision. I see the award as a commitment to increase our activities for Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of the Name, for bringing people together, selfless love, and unity within Israel, concern for others and mutual guarantee.”
The award committee, under the chairmanship of the Director-General of the Haim Sheba Medical Center, Professor Yitshak Kreiss M.D, included Israel Prize recipients Mrs. Miriam Peretz, Yeshayahu (Shaike) Levi, Yehudit Grisero and former Rector of Bar-Ilan University Professor Haim Teitelbaum.