Col. (res.) Tzvika Levy, known as "the father of lone soldiers," is one of the recipients of this year's Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement along with the more controversial David Beeri.
Minister of Education Naftali Bennett announced the honor on Thursday after having accepted the recommendations of the prize committee. The latter commented that Levy, a resident of the Yifat Kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley, had made a significant contribution to the country in his support for soldiers who have no immediate family in Israel.
They added that he has supported hundreds of thousands of such soldiers for decades. Bennett wrote that the laureate is one "of the beautiful
Later in the day, Levy expressed his appreciation in a recorded audio message. "Hello to all my friends…I want to thank each one of you," he said in part. "You also have a part (in this prize). Keep contributing. (Bennett) spoke with me for a half hour, and I couldn't contain my excitement."
Levy was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy about a year ago. He shortly thereafter lost mobility, and speaking became more difficult. He was hospitalized for several months, when IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visited his hospital bed to promote him to the rank of colonel in reserves in appreciation for his contribution. Levy was later released, but he remains bound to a wheelchair.
A controversial laureate
The other recipient of the lifetime achievement gong is Elad Foundation founder David Beeri. His foundation was condemned by the Obama administration for stoking Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Elad has come under criticism for settling Jewish nationalists in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The foundation says the areas are central to Jewish heritage.
In 2014, then-White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the purchase of 25 apartment units in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, a settler takeover that Elad helped oversee.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat lauded Beeri as "a man of vision as he is a man of action."
Shahar Chai & Ahiya Raved contributed to this report.