Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
International Israeli violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah.

The third annual Israel Genesis Prize was awarded Thursday evening to native Israeli virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah hosted the 2016 Genesis Prize laureate violinist on Thursday (June 23) at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

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The Netanyahus congratulated the internationally-renown musician on winning the prize and expressed their appreciation of his unique contribution to the Jewish People as an artist and teacher — and for his work on behalf of special needs children.

A long-time advocate for the disabled, Perlman had also participated with 170 athletes with disabilities earlier in the week in the Etgarim (Israel Association for the Disabled) Marathon in Jerusalem.

This year’s award ceremony was held Thursday evening at the Jerusalem Theater under the direction of Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren.

Netanyahu first announced the Genesis Prize in 2012. The award is presented under the auspices of the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency and the Genesis Philanthropy Group. The goal of the prize is to emphasize the contribution of Jews to world history and bring the younger generation of the Jewish world closer to the State of Israel and Jewish identity.

In awarding the 2016 Genesis Prize, Netanyahu told Perlman, “You are an advocate for those whose bodies are disabled but whose spirits never can be. Winning the Prize is not end of the journey but rather, just its beginning.”

Perlman knows first-hand the challenges faced by those with special needs; at the age of four he contracted polio, a deadly disease that left him in a wheelchair for life, without the use of his legs. “The Genesis Prize is especially meaningful to me, to receive this award here in Israel in the country of my birth,” Perlman said. The violinist left Israel at age 13, after completing his initial training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. He went on to study at the Julliard School, where he is currently an instructor.

But it was Itzhak Perlman’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show soon after his arrival in the U.S. that alerted the international arena that a new world-class violinist was about to step on the stage.

Perlman has performed as a conductor with major orchestras across the world — including with the New York Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Israel Philharmonic.

In addition, he has been awarded 16 Grammy Awards and four Emmy Awards, most recently for the PBS documentary, ‘Fiddling for the Future.’ The film is about the Perlman Music program founded by him and his wife Toby for young musicians who need support to enable their music talent to flourish.

The virtuoso has also been involved with major movie music scores, collaborating on American films such as Schindler’s List and Memoirs of a Geisha as well as the 2002 Chinese film, Hero.

Perlman, a father of five, will mark his 70th birthday with three album releases and a worldwide concert tour.

TPS / Tazpit Press Service contributed to this report.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.