A robust democracy must protect all forms of freedom of speech, EMET Prize winner David Heyd, a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said during Thursday’s award ceremony.
“We can’t boast externally that we’re the only democracy in the Middle East, while internally crack down of the legitimacy of mechanisms in a democracy like the Supreme Court and human rights NGOs,” Heyd said in a comment that received a round of applause at the ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater.
And it was celebration of democracy and everything good that comes with it – freedom of expression, the advancement of scientific research, and a robust cultural scene.
The EMET Prize pays homage to excellence in Israel across a variety of fields, and the honorees share a $1 million award given by the AMN Foundation.
“The contributions of the winners, whether in pioneering scientific research or contemplating the depths of the human psyche, has raised the prestige of the State of Israel,” AMN Foundation general manager Arie Dubson said. “It is thanks to them that Israel is considered a scientific center of the first order, both culturally and spiritually.”
Eli Groner, the director- general of the Prime Minister’s Office, echoed that sentiment.
“We all know that Israel is a start-up nation,” he said.
“We say this every chance we get. Why? Because Israel has a spirit of innovation.
Israel is a start-up nation because of individuals like you.”
The Prize was the brainchild of the late Alberto Moscona Nissim, a Mexican Jew, who found it curious that as of the late ’90s, there were many Jews who had won Nobel Prizes, but no Israelis.
“Alberto had a specific vision – to have an Israeli Nobel Prize,” Dubson said.
“It seems that something about the EMET formula is working, because I’m proud to say that every Israeli who won a Nobel Prize for science won the EMET Prize first.
“I hope that means that all of you tonight stand to win many more prestigious awards in your lifetime,” Dubson told the table of seven winners present on stage.
Winners are selected by a group of experts in each of the categories awarded: Life sciences, exact sciences, social sciences, humanities and culture.
“It’s always an honor when people in your field think your work is worthy of celebration; it’s a big honor,” Assaf Razin, who won for his research in economics and the consequences of population growth, said in a prerecorded video.
In addition to Razin and Heyd, a philosopher whose work on ethics has influenced national, medical and legal-medical issues, the other winners were actor/ director Oded Kotler; Prof.
Jacob Ziv, a leader in the fields of data compression, information and statistical communication theory; Zelig Eshhar and Alexander Levitzki for their pioneering work in cancer research; and Tel Aviv’s Gesher Theater director Yevgeny Arye.
“I’m really proud of this prize and to be in this company of people who really did something substantive for the country,” Arye said.
This article was written in cooperation with the EMET Prize.