Spanish Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Fernando Carderera Soler presents Avner Shalev with the award at an intimate ceremony at the residence of the Ambassador
Left to right: Avner Shalev, Amabassador Carderera Soler and Perla Hazan, Director of Yad Vashem's Spain, Portugal and Miami-Spanish Speakers Desk, International Relations Division
15 December 2016
On Thursday, 15 December, Avner Shalev received the title of Commander of the Order of Civil Merit by the King of Spain. Spanish Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Fernando Carderera Soler presented Shalev with the award at an intimate ceremony at the residence of the Ambassador, in the presence of members of the Yad Vashem Directorate, family and close friends. Shalev was commended for his years of public service as Chairman of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and for the significant strides he has made in Holocaust education and commemoration in Israel and around the world.
The prestigious Order of Civil Merit (Orden del Mérito Civil) was established in 1926 to recognize extraordinary service of Spanish and foreign citizens on behalf of the King and Spanish Nation. There are several grades of this citation. Previous recipients of the various levels of the Order of Civil Merit have included heads of state, members of royalty, ministers, diplomats and senior functionaries.
"During his tenure, Yad Vashem has created a strong and special link with Centro Sefarad Israel, which has contributed towards an exponential growth of Holocaust commemoration in Spain," noted the Ambassador. "The Holocaust is now remembered and studied all over Spain and is recognized as a fact of our modern history… Since 2006, every year Yad Vashem organizes a course in cooperation with Central Sefarad Israel in which teachers from all over Spain receive special training for the transfer of Holocaust memory to the Spanish people – something the Spanish government views as very important."
The Ambassador also noted that during Shalev's tenure four Spanish citizens have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, including Spanish diplomats, which he personally viewed as a special honor. In addition, Yad Vashem supports Spanish Holocaust-related activities in international organizations, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Recalling the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, the highest award conferred in Spain, which Shalev proudly received on behalf of Yad Vashem in 2007, the Ambassador said: "The time has come for us to recognize not only Yad Vashem but also Avner Shalev for his friendship, his loyalty and his services to Spain and the Spanish Crown."
"I view this award not only as a personal tribute to me, but also as recognition of the collective efforts of all who are involved, professionally and with much devotion, both at Yad Vashem and their counterparts in Spain," said Shalev. Recalling the Jewish people's deep connection to Spain and Yad Vashem's efforts in the fields of Holocaust research, education and commemoration, Shalev emphasized the need to "continue the discourse in order to guard our human values, especially in today's politically and economically tense world."
Since the beginning of his tenure at Yad Vashem in 1993, Avner Shalev has initiated and overseen a comprehensive development program aimed at enabling Yad Vashem to meet the challenges of the 21st century in the areas of Holocaust documentation, research and education. From the start, Shalev prioritized education, placing it at Yad Vashem's forefront through the establishment of its International School for Holocaust Studies. Over the years, the International School has hosted hundreds of educational seminars for teachers and community leaders from around the world, including several for educators from Spain and Latin America. Moreover, in March 2016 Yad Vashem signed an educational Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipal Institute of Education of Barcelona. In addition, Shalev's development program included the establishment of a comprehensive Museum Complex, centered on the Holocaust History Museum, for which he served as Chief Curator. Yad Vashem has also invested great efforts in the area of online media, and in January 2009, it inaugurated a comprehensive Spanish-language website – alongside its website in English, Hebrew, German, Arabic, Farsi and Russian. In 2015, www.yadvashem.org attracted over 18 million visits.
In his capacity as Yad Vashem Chairman, Shalev serves as a member of several international organizations in the area of Holocaust commemoration, including Assistant Chairman of the International Auschwitz Council and Co-Head of Israel's Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). In 2003, he received the Israel Prize on behalf of Yad Vashem. In 2007, in addition to the Prince of Asturias Award, he received the French Legion of Honor by President Sarkozy. In addition, Shalev has received several awards in Israel: He was bestowed the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy of Jerusalem) award by the Mayor of Jerusalem in 2011, and in 2014 Shalev received the Presidential Medal of Distinction from President Shimon Peres.