Former foreign minister David Levy, a veteran Likud politician who for years championed the cause of Jews of Middle Eastern origin, was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, it was announced Thursday.
Levy, 80, was born in Rabat, Morocco and emigrated to Israel in 1957. He entered the Knesset in 1969 and served as an MK until 2006, most of the time in the Likud party.
“David Levy’s personal story is the story of a boy who immigrated to Israel from Rabat, Morocco, to a transit camp and then a development town, and from there jumped to the heart of public and social activity within the melting pot of Israeli society,” the committee wrote.
The committee also praised him as “a social fighter for the weaker sectors of the population, a workers’ leader and a representative of the development towns and the periphery.”
Levy was one of the first politicians from a Sephardi background to rise to a senior position in government, in a political system that was dominated by the European Ashkenazi elites.
Two of Levy’s children serve as lawmakers in the current government; Jacky Levy of Likud, and former Yisrael Beytenu no. 2 Orly Levy-Abekasis, who now serves as an independent and recently announced she is to launch her own party.
Levy-Abekasis tweeted that it was hard for her to find the words to express her joy at the announcement. She tweeted that the award was not only for her father but for the “entire generation that he represented and fought for.”
מעטים הרגעים שבהם קשה לי לבחור את המילים הרגע הזה הוא אחד מהם. אבא מקבל את פרס ישראל ויחד איתו דור שלם של אנשים שאותם ייצג ועבורם נלחם. מפעל חייך חיי וקיים אבא! pic.twitter.com/jZGZtpPm4M
— אורלי לוי-אבקסיס (@Orly_levy) March 15, 2018
Levy was congratulated by lawmakers from across the political spectrum, including the head of the opposition. President Reuven Rivlin called Levy a trailblazer who paved the way for others, showing them that it was possible to break through from the periphery to the heart of Israeli society.
Also on Thursday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Miriam Peretz was to be awarded the Israel Prize for strengthening the Jewish-Israeli spirit.
Peretz lost two sons in combat. In 1998 her eldest son Uriel was killed in Lebanon aged 22. Eliraz, who served in the elite Sayeret Golani unit like his brother, was killed in action near the Gaza Strip in 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising both of them.
“I congratulate David Levy and Miriam Peretz on their winning the Israel Prize which they so richly deserve in light of their achievements and their abiding commitment to our state,” he said.
Peretz has dedicated herself to giving educational, inspirational talks to teenagers and soldiers, trying to give them what she described hope, love and a sense of purpose.
Peretz was born in Casablanca, Morocco, moving to Israel in 1964 at the age of 10-years-old. In 2014 she was chosen to light one of the torches to celebrate Israel’s 66th Independence Day.
On Sunday organizers announced that Yehuda and Yehudit Bronicki, founders of Ormat Industries, would be jointly awarded the Israel Prize for industry.
The other winners of this year’s prizes announced so far are Gil Shwed, the CEO of Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies, 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).
Levy and the others will be officially awarded the Israel Prize during this year’s Independence Day celebrations on April 19.