Peres to honor Spielberg, Wiesel with annual award

President to give award to two figures known for their work commemorating the Holocaust, among other recipients

'Bridge of Spies' director Steven Spielberg (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
'Bridge of Spies' director Steven Spielberg (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

President Shimon Peres will award this year’s Presidential Medal of Distinction to a group that includes Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

The president’s office said Thursday that Spielberg will be recognized for his contribution to cinema and “his unique contribution to the memory of the Holocaust, to the State of Israel (and) to the Jewish people.”

The statement commended Spielberg for his work on Schindler’s List, “one of the most important films in the history of cinema.”

Wiesel, a world-renowned author, intellectual and Nobel laureate, survived the Holocaust and is being honored for his work commemorating it across the world, and especially in the US.

Other recipients include medical advisor Rabbi Elimelech Firer, Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (AWIS) director-general Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani, physicist Harry Zvi Tabor, Or Yarok road safety association founder Avi Naor and “a member of Israel’s security services who must remain anonymous.”

Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction is comparable to the France’s Legion of Honor or the Order of Canada. Previous winners include US President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, conductor Zubin Mehta and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

The award “is conferred upon private individuals and organizations that have made unique and outstanding contributions to Tikkun Olam (Bettering the World), Israeli society and the State of Israel’s image around the world, and which constitute examples of initiative, innovation, creativity and vision,” according to a statement released by Peres’s office Thursday.

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