Israel's nobel prizewinners and their acceptance speeches

April 18, 2008
From their breakthroughs in economic decision-making to their contributions to world peace, the nation's thinkers, writers and statesmen have achieved the ultimate recognition
Shmuel Yosel Agnon (Shai Agnon) Born in Galicia in 1888, Shai Agnon became one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966. He died in 1970 From his acceptance speech: “First and foremost, there are the Sacred Scriptures, from which I learned how to combine letters. Then there are the Mishna and the Talmud and the Midrashim and Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. After these come the Poskim — the later explicators of Talmudic Law — and our sacred poets and the medieval sages… Why did I list the Jewish books? Because it is they that gave me my foundations. And my heart tells me that they are responsible for my being honoured with the Nobel Prize… There is another kind of influence, which I have received from every man, every woman, every child I have encountered along my way, both Jews and non-Jews. People’s talk and the stories they tell have been engraved on my heart, and some of them have flown into my pen.”
Menachem Begin Born in Poland in 1892, Menachem Begin was awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize after negotiating the Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He died in 1992 From his acceptance speech: “Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. Peace is all of these and more and more… Reborn, Israel always strove for peace, yearned for it, made endless endeavours to achieve it… Admittedly, there were difficult times as well. Let nobody forget that we deal with a conflict of more than 60 years with its manifold tragedies. These we must put behind us in order to establish friendship and make peace the beauty of our lives.”
Yitzhak Rabin Born in Jerusalem in 1922, Yitzhak Rabin won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Shimon Peres and Yassir Arafat, for their efforts towards peace which culminated in the 1993 Oslo Accords. He was assassinated in 1995 From Yitzhak Rabin’s acceptance speech: “Standing here today, I wish to salute our loved ones — and past foes. I wish to salute all of them— the fallen of all the countries in all the wars; the members of their families who bear the enduring burden of bereavement; the disabled whose scars will never heal. Tonight, I wish to pay tribute to each and every one of them, for this important prize is theirs… I stand here as the emissary today — if they will allow me — of our neighbours who were our enemies. I stand here as the emissary of the soaring hopes of a people which has endured the worst that history has to offer and nevertheless made its mark — not just on the chronicles of the Jewish people, but on all mankind.”
Shimon Peres Born in Poland in 1923, he won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat From Shimon Peres’s acceptance speech: “Today as in my youth, I carry dreams. I would mention two: the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Middle East… The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity… In the Middle East most adults are impoverished and wretched. A new scale of priorities is needed, with weapons on the bottom rung and a regional market economy at the top... A Middle East in which every believer will be free to pray in his own language — Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, or whatever language he chooses — and in which the prayers will reach their destination without censorship, without interference, and without offending anyone. A Middle East in which nations strive for economic equality and encourage cultural pluralism. A Middle East where every young woman and man can attain university education. A Middle East where living standards are in no way inferior to those in the world’s most advanced countries. A Middle East where waters flow to slake thirst, to make crops grow and deserts bloom, in which no hostile borders bring death, hunger, and despair. A Middle East of competition, not of domination. A Middle East in which men are each other’s hosts, not hostages. A Middle East that is not a killing field but a field of creativity and growth. A Middle East that honours its history so deeply that it strives to add to it new, noble chapters. A Middle East which will serve as a spiritual and cultural focal point for the entire world.”
Daniel Kahneman Born in Tel Aviv in 1934, psychologist Daniel Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, with Vernon Smith, in recognition of their work on prospect theory From Vernon Smith’s banquet speech, on behalf of them both: “I wish to celebrate the Royal Family for their grace and charm in this magnificent affirmation of the dignity of humankind… Daniel Kahneman for his ingenuity in the study and understanding of human decision and its associated cognitive processes demonstrating that the logic of choice and the ecology of choice can be divergent.”
Robert Aumann Born in Germany in 1930, Robert Auman has taught Maths at the Hebrew University since 1956 and was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis From his acceptance speech: “We have participated in the human enterprise — raised beautiful families. And I have participated in the realisation of a 2,000-year-old dream — the return of my people to Jerusalem, to its homeland. And tonight, we have been served with a superb wine, in the recognition of the worth of our scientific enterprise. I feel very strongly that this recognition is not only for us, but for all of game theory, in Israel and in the whole world... So, I offer my thanks to these, to the Nobel Foundation and the Nobel Committee, to our magnificent hosts, the country of Sweden, and to the Lord, who is good and does good.”
Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover Born in Hungary in 1937, Avram Hershko made aliyah in 1950. Aaron Ciechanover was born in Haifa in 1947. Both work at the Technion in Haifa and were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Irwin Rose of the University of California, “for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation” From Avram Hershko’s acceptance speech: “At times, a Nobel Prize is awarded to several people who did not work together, but contributed separately to a common discovery. At other times, the prize is given to a team of scientists whose collaborative research resulted in a discovery. However, it is rare that a Nobel Prize is bestowed upon a team of three, each of whom represents a different generation in science… The discovery of this biochemical pathway has been recognised by awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, even though its implications are primarily in the biomedical sciences and, hopefully, in the treatment or prevention of human diseases in the future… The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognised this intimate relationship between chemistry, biochemistry, physiology and medicine many times in the past, and now again with this year’s choice for the Nobel Prize.”
Last updated: 1:18pm, September 16 2008