Gil Shwed, the CEO of Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies, is the recipient of the first-ever Israel Prize in technology and innovation, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced Sunday.
“Shwed is a pioneer of the Startup Nation,” Bennett tweeted.
Shwed is a graduate of the secretive Military Intelligence Unit 8200, which is similar to the American National Security Agency in collecting information from electronic communication, also referred to as signals intelligence.
“His story is the story of Israeli high-tech,” Bennett added. “As an alumnus of 8200 who founded Check Point, he paved the way and was an inspiration to me and to thousands of Israeli high tech entrepreneurs.”
In a video message circulated on social media following the announcement, Shwed noted that the State of Israel has become synonymous with his company’s field of cybersecurity.
“I was thrilled to hear I had been chosen as an Israel Prize winner, especially in a field that is so closely associated with our country and with Israeli society,” he said.
Shwed, born in Jerusalem, currently lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and six children. He founded Check Point in 1993, and is thought to have a personal worth of some $4 billion today.
President Reuven Rivlin also praised Shwed as the award was announced.
“When Gil Shwed was released from the IDF, he didn’t dream about a buyout. Along with Shlomo Kramer and Marius Nacht, he started Check Point, the flagship of Israeli high tech, a company whose innovation and leadership represent us proudly in the world and remains in Israeli hands,” Rivlin said.
“My dear Gil, no one is more deserving than you to be the first Israel Prize winner in the field of high-tech,” the president added.
Organizers also announced on Sunday that Yehuda and Yehudit Bronicki, founders of Ormat Industries, would be jointly awarded the Israel Prize for industry. Ormat is a world leader in the establishment of geothermal energy systems around the world and also a pioneer in green environmental technology.
Aside from Yehudit Bronicki, all of the winners of the Israel Prize this year are men, a fact that some social media users took issue with.
The other winners of the prize are David Grossman (Literature); Sergiu Hart (Economics); Shlomo Havlin (Physics); Alex Lubotzky (mathematics and computer science); Yitzhak Schlesinger (Psychology); Ron Ben-Yishai (Journalism); Elisha Qimron (Jewish Studies) and Edwin Seroussi (Music).
Shwed and the others will be officially awarded the Israel Prize during this year’s Independence Day celebrations on April 19.