President Shimon Peres awarded the Presidential Medal of Distinction to Mr. Zubin Mehta for his unique contribution to Israeli culture
The President of the State of Israel, President Shimon Peres conferred the Presidential Medal of Distinction upon the conductor Mr. Zubin Mehta at a special event at the President's Residence this morning. The Presidential Medal of Distinction was awarded to Mr. Mehta for his outstanding contribution to culture in the State of Israel. Mr. Mehta is the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and a world renowned conductor. The event was attended by the American ambassador to Israel, Mr. Dan Shapiro, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of India, Ms. Vani Rao, the heads of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the members of the advisory council for the Presidential Medal of Distinction including the Fifth President of Israel, Mr. Yitzhak Navon, former President of the High Court, Justice Meir Shamgar, Dr. Gil Shwed, Professor Anita Shapira, Professor Suzy Navot, Dr. Muhammed Issawi and Dr. Rabbi Razon Aroussi.
President Peres presented Mr. Mehta with the award and the two shared a warm hug. President Peres said to Mr. Mehta, "Zubin you came here to conduct an orchestra but you became the conductor of our hearts. You know I can't think of anybody else who has offered such a unique contribution to our country, to our people and to our mood. You have shown leadership, a leader was born to elate the spirit and the hopes of the people. That's what you did." President Peres added, "Israel used to be a drama and you made us into a dramatic symphony without compromising one for the other. You made our people feel at ease, feel together through the language of music. You and the orchestra carried a flag of friendship across the world and represented our country in an unbelievable manner. Music conducted by you became a message for peace, a message of hope. I feel honored and privileged to express from the depth of our hearts our thanks to a person who is so unique. Thank you on behalf of our people and our country for this unique contribution."
Upon accepting the award Mr. Mehta said, "To be given a hug by President Peres is already my award. There is no greater friend of India in Israel than Shimon Peres. I don't think there is an important book on India that Shimon Peres has not read, he practically knows more about my country then I do. For all those years when India had no representative in Israel Shimon Peres always named me unofficial ambassador. What Israel has given me in the last 50 years I can only give back by having my musicians night after night play their hearts out all over the world." Mr. Mehta paid tribute to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and to the musicians he has conducted in his career both in Israel and during his time in Los Angeles. Mr. Mehta described coexistence in Israel as his dream and said "that if you can sing together, you can live together…I wish for this country only peace and harmony and a vision of living together."
The Presidential Medal of Distinction is awarded to private individuals and organizations that have made unique and outstanding contributions to Israeli society and the State of Israel's image around the world, and which constitute examples of initiative, innovation, creativity and vision. The medals themselves feature the North Star to symbolize the right path and a menorah, the symbol of Israel and the continuous link between past and present. The medal is crowned with the words from Samuel 9:2 "from his shoulders and upward."