President Rivlin presents the award
President Rivlin presents the awardצילום: חיים צח, לע"מ

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday presented the 2021 Presidential Award for Volunteerism at a festive ceremony at Beit HaNasi, the 47th time it has been awarded.

The award is given to volunteers and individuals who receive the recognition of the country and society for their volunteer activity. The award is granted by the presidency in collaboration with the National Council for Volunteering in Israel and aims to develop and promote the spirit of volunteerism and to recognize volunteers.

This year, the Presidential Award for Volunteerism was awarded to volunteers who strengthened mutual responsibility and social resilience when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. President Rivlin, the chair of the advisory committee to the presidential award and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and chair of the National Council for Volunteering in Israel Dr. Baruch Levy spoke at the event.

“Over the years, I felt special pride at this event and this year – the year of the pandemic and the crisis, the year of corona – I feel an even more special sense of pride. In your day-to-day activity, you are the most beautiful face of Israel. Israel that gives, volunteers, initiates and continues the pioneer vision of working for the common good on which our country is built. Israel in which we are all responsible for each other, in which the other and the different are part of the whole,” said the president at the beginning of his remarks.

“When people ask me if I really believe we can create a united society based on partnership and mutual responsibility, despite the differences and disagreements, a society that works together and moves forward in the face of challenges and obstacles, I remind myself of you. I look to you. I tell your stories. You exemplify the complex and diverse Israeli mosaic, from different ethnicities, religions, age-groups and political views, build bridges and create connections, working to bring together and to close gaps, and who see difference and diversity as a challenge, a blessing and an opportunity,” said the president. “Together, you strengthen the foundations of Israeli society and our national resilience. If there is one thing we learnt in the recent crisis it is that we cannot get through complex crises that arise if we act as individuals each in our own homes or communities, but only if we are united.”

The president spoke of the dedicated volunteer activity of the recipients during the period of coronavirus, saying “The oldest recipient is Mrs. Miriam Indig, 93 years old and still volunteering and working for the common good. Congratulations, Miriam! You made sure, even during this difficult and complex year, to make medical services, educational and cultural services, legal rights, available to all. You helped distribute food and medicine, equipment, making personal and human contact. You trained and supervised, reduced gaps and built bridges between religious and ethnic groups, between towns and the periphery. What you all have in common is your sense of mission and the will to act for the common good. I am proud of you. All of Israel is proud of you.”

At the end of his remarks, the president thanked the members of the advisory committee and its chair, former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and congratulated the winners.

Chair of the advisory committee former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot: “When we selected the recipients of the award, we were privileged to see what they all have in common: a determination to make Israeli society more just and more fair, and a burning desire to help those in need. Over the period of coronavirus, we learned just how important the resilience of Israel’s civil society is, and that the challenges facing the State of Israel apply to each and every one of us. For that reason, we must find what we have in common and what keeps us together because we are all dependent on and responsible for each other. Your activity is, without a doubt, a significant contribution to our social resilience and to strengthening the bonds between us that make us stronger and ready to face any challenge.”

Recipients of the 2021 Presidential Award for Volunteerism are:

Orna Shimoni, 80, from Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov. Lost her son Eyal who fell in the Lebanon War and established Beit Eyal in his memory for rehabilitation of those with physical disabilities, the Center for the Memory of IDF soldiers and victims of terrorism in the Lebanon War, and the Hill of Picked Flowers in memory of the schoolgirls of Beit Shemesh killed at Naharayim.

Odelia Fitoussi, 42, from Bat Yam, who lives with muscular dystrophy. Works for the integration and rights of people with disabilities. Chair of the advisory committee of the Commission for Equal Rights for Persons With Disabilities at the Ministry of Justice and Israel’s first representative to the UN’s expert panel.

Erez Perlmutter, 55, from Ramat Gan. Founder of the Kol Zchut website to help people know their rights.

Hazima Maher, 39, from Maghar. Chair of Rav Kium which works for mutual responsibility and strengthening ties between different sectors of society.

Miriam Indig, 93, from Jerusalem. Volunteers at Birkat Ha’aretz to help farmers. Lost her son in the Yom Kippur War and founded several memorials in his name.

Dr. Tamara Kolitz, 41, from Tel Aviv. Founder of Lema’anam – doctors for Holocaust survivors.

Alshugan for Youth with Diabetes – working for diabetic children and young people in Arab society.

Hoshen Education and Change – A group representing the LGBT community.

Tene Health for Ethiopian Immigrants – working to advance health rights and education among the Israeli-Ethiopian community.

Yedidim – non-medical first aid on the roads.

Kulana Yerushalayim – meetings between residents of east and west Jerusalem on a range of platforms to close gaps.

Refua ve’Simcha – assistance and support to the sick and their families.