Photo Credit: Mark Neiman / GPO
President Reuven Rivlin with 2017 'Danielle Prize' winner Dr. Patch Adams

Israel President Reuven Rivlin and wife Nechama hosted the 2017 ‘Danielle Prize – Healing with a Heart’ Awards Ceremony this week in Jerusalem.

The Prize, presented for the second consecutive year to 12 male and female doctors and nurses employed in hospital oncology units in Israel, acknowledges the efforts of hospital medical personnel who distinguish themselves in the compassion and care that they bestow upon their patients.


The Prize is awarded in loving memory of Danielle Sonnenfeld, a volunteer in the Oncology Unit at Schneider Children Hospital who perished two years ago in a tragic car accident.

During the course of Wednesday evening (April 19), a special prize was awarded to Dr. Patch Adams, an American physician who pioneered the concept of hospital clowns to bring joy to suffering patients.

The physician gained international fame after his name appeared as the title of the 1998 Hollywood film, ‘Patch Adams‘ starring the late actor Robin Williams. The film was based on Adams’ life and views on medicine.

The Danielle Sonnenfeld Foundation awarded Dr. Adams the Danielle Prize in appreciation of his lifelong endeavors on behalf of patients which promote the cause of healing with the heart around the world.

Among those attending the ceremony at the official presidential residence were Minister of Health Rabbi Yaakov Litzman; Mr. Elio Moti Sonnenfeld, founder and director of the foundation which he established in memory of his daughter Danielle; and Professor Dina Ben Yehudah who spoke on behalf of the winners. Also in attendance were Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau; Minister of Education Naftali Bennett; Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked; former ministers Eli Yishai and Professor Daniel Hirschkowitz; and MKs Revital Swid and Yaakov Asher, to name a few.

“Being a good doctor is more than just understanding the science of medicine; it’s understanding the science of the human being,” President Rivlin noted.

“Medicine, advanced as it may be, that lacks compassion, devotion, goodness of heart and love of mankind—is sorely deficient. A good doctor is more than just a skilled professional; he is one who manifests personal integrity and dedication. A good doctor is one who treats the patient, not just the illness. It was Maimonides who said that the illness of the body and soul must be treated jointly, and a good doctor views each patient as one and only, special.”

After receiving his prize, Dr. Patch Adams said, “I can’t imagine a prize more beautiful than a prize given for compassion. It is a thing that could save the world. It is a great honor to be called ‘compassionate’. I’ve clowned in 83 countries. People hunger for love all around the globe. For me, clowning is a trick to get love close.

“As a clown I can do things that people are too frightened of love to allow you to do. According to my experience – love and compassion can cure, they are real pain relievers. At a very early age Danielle realized that the true wealth of life is to give love. It is great when you give love to someone so in need of it. And she found it out at a very young age – before she was 20. It is truly remarkable”.

Danielle’s father, Mr. Elio Moti Sonnenfeld, noted “We are now in the midst of Sefirat Ha’Omer (the days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot), when we mourn the deaths of the 24,000 disciples of the great sage Rabi Akiva who were punished for their lack of respect to one another.

“These disciples were the spiritual crème de la crème of their generation. In a respect, the winners of the Danielle Prize offer the spiritual rectification for this omission. I’m certain that Danielle is watching all of you from Above, delighting in your devotion, and praying for your continued success.”


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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, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.