Professor Mona Khoury, Vice President for Strategy and Diversity, and Professor Meir Buzaglo from the Department of Philosophy, are the two professors from the Hebrew University who were awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour in a festive ceremony that took place at the President Isaac Herzog’s Residence on 6th September. The Award was given to a number of individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and all humanity.
This year, on the occasion of the 75th year of the State of Israel, it was decided to award the Prize to a wide variety of 13 people active in various fields in Israel and in the Diaspora. Among the recipients: eight men, five women, one organization, two leaders from the Diaspora. The ages of the recipients range from 35-102 and they embody the diverse and vibrant Israeli and Jewish mosaic.
The Medal is the result of the initiative of the ninth President of the State of Israel, the late Shimon Peres. Upon taking office, President Isaac Herzog established an advisory committee chaired by Supreme Court Judge (ret.), Prof Yoram Danzinger, to nominate candidates to receive the decoration. The President instructed the committee to offer him diverse proposals from all parts of Israeli society, including Jewish leaders from the Diaspora.
Professor Mona Khoury expressed her gratitude for the Presidential Medal of Honour and the recognition of her work in promoting diversity and inclusion in academia. She stated, “Receiving this prestigious award is not just a personal honour, but a testament to the power of diversity and unity in shaping a better future for all people. Together, we can build a stronger and more inclusive society that values the contributions of every individual, regardless of their background. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of breaking through glass ceilings, and in my role as Vice President for Strategy and Diversity at the Hebrew University, I’m committed to shattering those barriers for others. Let this medal be a symbol of our shared commitment to a brighter and more harmonious future, and to actively nurturing diversity for the benefit of all.”
Professor Meir Buzaglo conveyed remarks on behalf of the Presidential Medal of Honour recipients, stating,” Amidst the clamour of external distractions, precision in our vision becomes paramount. As the ancient verse wisely states, ‘Without vision, a nation perishes.’ Today, as Israel grapples with the complex balance of being a Jewish and democratic state, it faces pressing concerns. Yet, we should strive to envision a revitalized Middle East, where we can transform the challenges and crises that confront us into opportunities for progress and prosperity in the region while enriching the Abraham Accords. This endeavour embodies the age-old vision of our forefather Abraham, who was told, ‘And through you, all the families of the earth shall find their blessings.’”
Welcoming the recipients, their families and all those attending the ceremony, President Herzog thanked them for their unique contribution and said, “Michal and I are delighted at the privilege of hosting you tonight, here in Jerusalem, at the President’s Residence which is the house of all the people. This important Award is the result of the initiative of the Ninth President of Israel – the beloved Shimon Peres – whose grave we visited this morning as we marked seven years since his passing, and also the centenary of his birth.”
The President spoke of the significance of the Award, and the values it represented and noted, “Having a shared foundation is what provides stability and strength for growth and prosperity. This idea, of prosperity based on great diversity but rooted in a common foundation – is a very central theme that has been woven into the Israeli presidency since its inception. Indeed it is guiding light in the daily activities of the President’s Residence today, which is manifested, among other things, in the ‘Dialogue in the Community’ initiative that we launched a few months ago.”
He continued, “In fact, this is an idea that has been with our people for thousands of years – since the twelve Tribes of Israel. Even the biblical commentators who describe the splitting of the Red Sea refer to 12 separate paths within the sea – each tribe in its own path. But they also make sure to emphasize the interface between the paths and between the Tribes, the fundamental, infrastructural, unquestionable partnership. A partnership that is a deep and ancient alliance, an alliance of fate and an alliance of destiny. This Jewish idea – of connected diversity and partnership, an idea that has become a Zionist and Israeli ideal, to which all share the beliefs and lifestyles that are part of ‘Israeliness’ – lies at the root of our ability as a nation and as an Israeli society to develop and grow the wonderful country we have built here.”
Turning to the Award recipients, he said, “This is embedded deeply in the DNA of the State of Israel, and it is not without reason that it is reflected in all its glory in you – recipients of the Presidential Medal of Honour in the 75th year of the State. You have been privileged to do good, to bring about change, and to make a dramatic contribution to the State of Israel, to the Jewish people, for all humanity. This is why each and every one of you is worthy of receiving the highest civilian decoration in Israel – the Presidential Medal of Honour. We are proud of all of you, congratulations.”
He added, “Thank you, dear recipients, not only for your wonderful contribution, but also for the ray of light that you represent in these difficult days, when polarization and division are so prevalent. Thank you for reminding us all that there is another way, that it is possible not only to live together despite all the diversity, but because of all the diversity and to establish an exemplary, diverse and shared society, founded on values and generosity, on the roots of the past and the dreams of the future, for the well-being of all the inhabitants of the country, and for the prosperity of the State of Israel.”