Founder of Hesder Yeshiva Program Awarded Israel Prize

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Rabbi Haim Drukman, founder of the Hesder Yeshiva program which combines institutionalized Torah study with service in the Israel Army, is being awarded the Israel Prize for life achievement. “With his national perspective, sensitivity and love for Israel, he worked to bridge social gaps and absorb immigrants from Ethiopia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union),” stated the Israel Prize council.

The 79-year-old Drukman has served as Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion B’nei Akiva Yeshiva High School since he founded the institution in 1964. In 1977, he established the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva, which for many years was the largest Hesder yeshiva in the country, and in 1995 he founded the Ohr MeOfir academy for high school graduates of the Ethiopian community. Since 1996, he has also been the head of the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot and Ulpanot in Israel. Rabbi Drukman played a leading role in the establishment of the Gush Emunim settler movement. He also served for twenty-five years as Director of the State Conversion Authority, which helps non-Jews seeking to convert to Judaism.

The Israel Prize council said that Rabbi Drukman is an “attentive and unifying influence for all social groups, is involved in resolving serious debates at the core of Israeli society involving issues of religion and state, and serves as an address to which state leaders throng for advice and ingenuity.”  Responding to the news that he was being given the prestigious honor, Drukman said, “This is exciting, and gives me a feeling of satisfaction beyond the feeling I get during my daily routine. Everything I have done, with an emphasis on education and combining military service with the study of Torah, represents the religious Zionist approach, and those who issue the prize also appreciate that.”

“Granting this award to the rabbi is a sign of appreciation for the entire religious Zionist community, which should be praised for its work in the areas of education, conversion, settlement, and the Zionist enterprise,” commented MK Uri Orbach of the New National Religious Party. “This is society’s way of giving something small back to the rabbi for his contribution to the building of this nation and land.”

Initiated in 1953, the Israel Prize is an annual award by the state and is considered its highest honor. The prize is presented in Jerusalem on Yom Ha’atzmaut in a ceremony that is attended by the prime minister, president, Chair of the Knesset and President of the Supreme Court.