On Thursday, January 30, 2014 Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, will receive the Presidential Medal of Distinction from President Shimon Peres in a ceremony held in the President’s Residence. Shalev is being awarded for his public service as chairman of Yad Vashem over the past two decades.
The President’s Advisory Committee, headed by former president of the Israeli Supreme Court Meir Shamgar, noted that, “Avner Shalev works tirelessly, employing innovative and original methods, to instill vital Jewish, Zionist and universal values within Israeli and global consciousness, primarily through significant and meaningful Holocaust remembrance. For two decades he has invested his soul, his might and the upmost of his abilities to ensure that the Shoah is appropriately commemorated and its profound implications learned.” As Chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev has initiated a comprehensive development program aimed at enabling Yad Vashem to meet the challenges of the 21st century in the challenging contexts of Holocaust documentation, research and education. From the start, Shalev has prioritized education, placing it at Yad Vashem's forefront through the establishment of its International School for Holocaust Studies. In addition, his development program has included the establishment of a comprehensive new museum complex, centered around the new Holocaust History Museum, for which Shalev served as chief curator.
The prestigious Presidential Medal of Distinction, first awarded in 2012 at President Peres' initiative, is bestowed upon rare individuals who have made unique and extraordinary contributions to tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) or to Israel's society, culture and international status and who personally exemplify the traits of entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and vision. Among the elite group of the Medal's recipients to date are: US Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Zubin Mehta. This year’s awardees include Professor Elie Wiesel, director Steven Spielberg, and others.
Avner Shalev, born in Jerusalem, served as Head of the Bureau of the then Chief of Staff David Elazar and worked alongside him during the Yom Kippur War. Following his retirement from military service, Shalev assumed the position of Director of the Culture Authority in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Chairman of the National Council of Culture and Art and also served on the boards of a wide range of Israeli museums and cultural institutions including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Shalev helped found the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem and was instrumental in creating the Israel Festival as a major event in Jerusalem. In 1993, he was appointed Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. In 2003, he received the Israel Prize on behalf of Yad Vashem. In 2007, he received the French Legion of Honor by President Sarkozy and that same year the Spanish Prince of Asturias Prize for Concord on behalf of Yad Vashem. In 2011, Shalev was bestowed the Worthy of Jerusalem award.