India-born music conductor Zubin Mehta has been honoured with Israel’s first Presidential Awards of Distinction,the country’s version of the French Legion of Honour or the Order of Canada.
The award is being bestowed upon those ‘who have made an outstanding contribution to the state of Israel or to humanity,through their talents,services,or in any other form,’ a statement from the Israeli Presidency said.
Mehta,75,will be sharing the honours with the likes of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,Judith Feld Carr,a Canadian-Jewish musician and human rights activist who helped smuggle thousands of Jews out of Syria,the Rashi Foundation,a non-governmental organisation,Chabad Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael and attorney Uri Slonim.
The Indian conductor,who is the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO),will be awarded the honour ‘for his unique contribution to the world of Israeli
music,’ the statement said.
“I’m old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas,” Israel’s Nobel laureate President,Shimon Peres,said at a ceremony in honour of the recipients.
“The world has learned to say ‘thank you’,and it’s time that we also thank people of stature,people who set an example for the younger generation,so as to send a message that any person can be as great as his greatest action or
thought,” Peres added.
The Israeli president and the members of the advisory council,chaired by former supreme court president Meir Shamgar and former president Yitzhak Navon,yesterday announced the names of the recipients of the first Presidential Awards of Distinction.
“You are shining example for us all. The honour is ours that we give you the Presidential Award of Distinction today,” the octagenarian Israeli President emphasised.
The medallions for the award were designed by Bezalel Academy of arts and Design graduate,Yossi Matityahu,and feature the North Star,symbolising the right path,and a menorah,symbolising the renewal of the state of Israel and the strong and continuous link between past and present.
In a rare honour,Peres last year in July invited Mehta to perform at the Beit HaNassi (President’s official residence) to celebrate 50 years of his association with the IPO.
Commending his ‘indispensable contribution’ to the state of Israel,the elderly statesman then said that under Mehta’s baton,’music became more effective than diplomacy’.
The octogenarian Israeli leader said that he shares with the Indian conductor a rare optimism,namely preferring an imperfect peace rather than a perfect war. “I commend you on your indispensable contribution to the State of Israel,its people,its search for peace,and its love for music,” he said.