Two members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Israel were among the 120 soldiers who received this year’s Presidential Award for Excellence during a nationally-televised ceremony Thursday morning in Jerusalem.
According to a statement from Israeli President Shimon Peres’ office, the class of Israel Defense Force honorees included two wounded soldiers, 40 women, 17 new immigrants, 11 “lone soldiers,” 19 officers and 61 combat personnel.
Sporting long beards and the characteristic linen fringes known as tzitzit, two of the recipients, Air Force Sgt. Shneor Muzicant and Engineering Corps Lt. Yitzchak Shitrit, are products of the Chabad yeshiva school system in Israel.
Each of the awardees received a certificate presented by Peres and a tuition grant from the U.K. Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Scholarship Foundation.
They also were congratulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
“Israel is proud of you,” Peres said after a helicopter fly-over. “The nation sees you as outstanding members of an outstanding army. … Ahead of you is stands a world without borders, and unlimited technology. In this new situation you must deter enemies, prevent war, and emerge victorious from conflicts to strengthen the security of Israel.”
For his part, Gantz told the soldiers that they were role models for the entire country: “You must remember that after you get off the stage and return to your units … you will still continue to be watched.”
Gantz also addressed the families of the soldiers, thanking them for their dedication and support.
“You too,” he said, “deserve a lot of appreciation today for your support of these outstanding soldiers throughout their lives, for the education you gave them, and for allowing us – their generals – and the whole nation of Israel to reap from the fruits that you [planted].”