A delegation of high-profile Israeli artists and scholars arrived in Rome, Italy last week to receive the Excellence for Israel Prizes, awarded by the "Israel at 60" foundation, which operates under the auspices of Italian Culture Minister Sando Bondi.
Among the award recipients were Israel Prize laureate and UNESCO's "peace artist", sculptor and designer Dani Karavan; composer and conductor Noam Sharif; movie director Yosef Cedar, whose movie "Beaufort" was nominated for the Oscar in 2008.
Intellectual and author Zvi Yanai was also on the list, as well as historian, poet and art critic Arturo Schwartz and Dr. Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, who was named one of the world's 50 leading scientist by Scientific journal.
Zvi Yanai (Photo: Shlomo Arad)
The prize is a bronze statue made especially for the event by the young, well-known Italian artist Alex Pina.
The event also honored several Italian politicians for their long standing contribution to promoting and strengthening the ties between Israel and Italy, including Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Gianfranco Fini, president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
Italy loves us
The "Israel at 60" foundation in Italy opened the anniversary celebrations last year with a huge production of the Israeli Opera Tel Aviv-Yafo, A Journey to the End of the Millennium with libretto of A.B. Yehoshua and score of Yosef Bardanashvili.
A series of cultural and artistic events hosting Israeli artists has been held in Italy throughout the past year as part of the project.
Liron Bar Sadeh of the Israeli embassy in Rome said that Italy's treatment of Israel was uniquely positive. "They love us and do a lot to strengthen the ties. It's important to remember that Italy is the only country in Europe, and one of the only ones in the world, after the US and Canada, which withdrew from the Durban 2 anti-racism conference.
"Italy said that it is appalled by the systematic discrimination of Israel and the fact it is branded a threat to the world, while other countries are not considered a threat despite their actions. Italy published positive statements and supported us throughout the war, during which the Italian media, unlike other news outlets in Europe, has been very balanced."