Prof. Israel Aumann, laureate of the Nobel economics prize was very excited Monday, after his winning was announced.
"This is truly a very exciting moment.
I didn't really have much time to think about it. Actually, I had no time at all, because the phone didn't stop ringing," Auman said at a press conference held at Hebrew University in Jerusalem Monday.
When asked what his great discovery was, Aumann laughed and said "I really don't know. You will have to ask other people."
"I don't really know that much about economics," Aumann added. The Nobel Prize winner appeared to be very embarrassed by all the media attention directed at him, and by the applause that welcomed him when he entered the conference.
Sharon congratulates Aumann
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke with Prof. Aumann Monday and congratulated him on his win.
"I was very excited to hear about your win, and it gives great pride to the State of Israel and its citizens," Sharon said.
"I was delighted to discover that you had found similarities between the principles of the Game Theory and solutions from the Jewish heritage," he said.
The two reminisced on how they met 20 years ago, when Sharon served as Trade and Industry Minister. Sharon also recalled how he had presented Prof. Aumann with an arts, science and culture award in 2002.
Sharon invited Aumann to a meeting at his office, and the two agreed to talk after the Jewish holidays.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres also congratulated the Nobel Prize winner, saying that "You have brought a lot of respect and pride to the State of Israel."
Aumann responded by saying "Shimon, I have joined you."
Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize along with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
'Mischievous, but sweetly so'
Israel Aumann was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1930, and according to his older brother Moshe he was "a mischievous child, but sweetly so."
The family fled for the United States eight years later, where Israel and his brothers were awarded Jewish as well as General education.
In 1956 Aumann made Aliya to Israel and started working at the Hebrew University.
"Game theory" is a science of strategy, which attempts to determine what actions different “players” - be they trading partners, employers and unions or even crime syndicates - should take to secure the best outcome for themselves.
"In an ordinary game, like chess, not everybody can win. But in economics, politics and the real world, everybody can finish the game as winners," Aumann explained.
Pessimistic about regional dispute
Aumann was awarded the prize for his developments in the field of "repeated games" – meaning cyclic disputes.
"Repeated games are situations in which actions taken today will affect the other participants in the future," Aumann explained.
Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Aumann said he was pessimistic.
"This is not a dispute which alternately heightens and calms down,
but a dispute which has continued for 80 years. I can't see how it will come to an end in the near future," he said.
"Unfortunately I must say that I do not see and end to this dispute, and we must be prepared that it will last for another 80 years," Aumann stated.
Aumann also said that he told the Swedish ambassador to Israel that all his Children live in Israel, and that one of his sons was killed in the Lebanon war in 1982.
'Prize was no surprise'
Friends of Prof. Aumann at the university's science faculty were pleased with the winning, but not surprised.
"Aumann is one of the most important and revolutionary thinkers in the fields of economics and mathematics, and has been deserving of this prize for many years," President of the Hebrew University and a former student of Aumann, Prof. Menachem Megidor said.
"We are happy and proud of him, and I am certain we will see Aumann get more awards in the future."
However, Aumann refused to accept full credit for the prize. During an improvised speech at the press conference he thanked all those who supported him along the way.
"This prize is not just for me," he said. "The school we have developed here in Israel in the field of Game Theory is the true deserving winner of this award. We have turned Israel into an empire in this field," he stated.
Aumann is a father of five. He has 18 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. "I am expecting another
grandchild this week," Aumann said happily.
And what does a Nobel prize-winning professor do on his spare time? Aumann said that his greatest hobby is skiing.
"I once had a terrible accident. I lost my skis and my hat and flew downhill. If I hadn't been saved I wouldn't be here today, and there would have been no prize," he jokingly concluded.
- Diana Bahur-Nir contributed to the report