Despite the problems the country faces, the people of Israel can overcome them together, Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz said on Thursday.

“If we go out to meet the diversity, the others, we will know, we will feel, we will see the painful and happy eyes, and even if there is an abyss between us, we can build bridges over them, and all of us in this land are objects of life and objects of peace, and this is not the home of all of us,” she said.

Peretz, an educator and mother of two sons, Uriel and Eliraz, who were killed in action while serving in the IDF, received the award for “strengthening the Jewish-Israeli spirit.”

Speaking on the part of all the recipients, she began with words laden with emotion, saying she hopes her simple words can “properly express our deep appreciation to Israel that found us worthy of this prize and to our families and friends that have supported and encouraged us along the way.”

“We all want to see our grandchildren build their home here, travel safely in Israel and enjoy its landscapes,” Peretz said.

“We all aspire to a model society in the spirit of the vision of the prophets of Israel,” she said. “If you miss one piece of the puzzle, the picture will not be complete, so I will not give up any part of my people.”

The 2018 Israel Prizes were awarded to a record 16 laureates at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Thursday.

The 65th annual ceremony took place in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

In his opening remarks, Bennett spoke of the one Jewish family.

He asked attendees and television viewers to look at the variety and diversity among the laureates, adding: “Look at the difference between them and what beauty there is in those differences. We are a people of ideas and a people of debate, and those debates create those ideas.”

As at last year’s ceremony, Bennett identified one of the foundations of the Start-Up Nation as the “healthy friction between people of different backgrounds with differing opinions.”

He described the difficulties of progressing as a nation with so much diversity. We must remember that we are one family, he said, adding: “We argue, but we love, because we are one family.”

Regarding the nation’s youth, Bennett said: “Take responsibility!” “Let us dispel each other’s anxieties,” he said. “We will talk and not shout. We will deal with the argument and not he who argues. We will truly listen and remember that we are one family.”

This year’s Israel Prizes were awarded to: Prof. Shlomo Havlin of Bar-Ilan University, for Physics research; Prof. Alexander Lubotzky, former head of the Mathematics Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former Knesset member, for Mathematics Research and Computer Science Research; Prof. Sergiu Hart of the Hebrew University, for Economics Research; author David Grossman, for Literature; Prof.

Edwin Seroussi, for Culture, Art and Musicology Studies; Prof. Nava Ben-Zvi, for Lifetime Achievement in Education Research; former MK Yehuda Harel, for Agriculture and Settlement Research; Prof. Yehuda Bronicki and Yehudit Bronicki, founders of Ormat Technologies, for Industry; Gil Shwed, CEO of Check Point Software Technologies, for Hi-Tech and Applied Innovation; journalist Ron Ben-Yishai, for Communications; Prof. Izchak M. Schlesinger, professor emeritus at the Hebrew University, for Psychology Research; and Prof. Elisha Qimron, an expert in ancient Hebrew and the Dead Sea Scrolls, for Jewish Studies.

Three Lifetime Achievement Prizes were awarded to: Peretz; Natan Sharansky, a former cabinet minister, author and human-rights activist who spent nine years in Soviet prisons as a refusenik in Ukraine.

Sharansky was praised as one who “embodied the fulfillment of the Zionist dream – from the darkness of a Soviet prison to the light of liberty as the head of the Jewish Agency”; and David Levy, a Moroccan-born former cabinet member and a champion for the rights of Mizrachi Jews. Levy was praised as “a social fighter for the weaker sectors of the population, a workers’ leader and a representative of the development towns and the periphery.”

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