Alternative Israel Prize event honoring traditional categories to be held by universities

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Mellanox founder Eyal Waldman speaks at the Knesset on March 3, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Mellanox founder Eyal Waldman speaks at the Knesset on March 3, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An event handing out awards in the traditional Israel Prize categories of humanities, science and technology will be organized for Independence Day by the Association of University Heads, the organization says in an announcement.

It comes amid a growing row after the recent announcement by the government that this year for the first time, the annual Israel Prize would be awarded only in two newly created war and volunteer-related categories, instead of the traditional selection honoring lifetime achievements in the fields of social sciences, humanities, life and exact sciences, art, and special contributions to the State of Israel and Israeli society.

The cancellation of the categories by Education Minister Yoav Kisch apparently came as a result of the nomination of a prominent government critic Mellanox founder Eyal Waldman for the entrepreneurship award.

“Cancellation of the awards in the humanities, science, entrepreneurship and innovation at the Israel Prize ceremony is an expression of distorted priorities,” the Association of University Heads says in a statement, noting that breakthroughs in these areas serve to protect the nation and increase national resilience during times of “serious and unending threats to the State of Israel and its citizens.”

The event will include leading scientists, intellectuals, former Israel Prize and Nobel Prize winners, business and technology leaders, students and “everyone who cherishes science and the humanities,” the statement says.

The event “is not intended to damage the status and dignity of those who will be selected at this year’s ceremony under the theme of heroism,” the statement says.

Further details about the event will be released at a later date.

Yesterday, tech billionaire Waldman — whose daughter Danielle and her boyfriend Noam Shai were murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova massacre on October 7 —  told the Knesset Science Committee that he had been told that an associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had actively ensured he would not get the award.

Waldman said that his potential nomination for the award “did not go down well with Education Minister Yoav Kisch, the prime minister’s associates, and perhaps the prime minister himself.”

Businessman Shlomi Fogel, an associate of the premier, denied the allegation.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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