The Van Leer Prize for Excellence in High School Research Projects in the Humanities
“For still I do believe in man,
And in his spirit, strong and bold.”
Shaul Tchernichovsky, 1892*
The study of the humanities is not a luxury. It is a vital need of the individual and of humankind. There is no substitute for the insights born of philosophical criticism, the conclusions gained from historical analysis, or the meaning that a work of art offers to the soul and to society.
Nevertheless, in recent years we have witnessed a growing erosion of the status of the humanities—in the education system, in academic institutions, and in the public sphere. We believe that a true change must be made, one that will strengthen and enrich Israeli society and will prevent the superficializing of the discourse in the country’s social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.
As part of this effort, in 2014 the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute started awarding an annual prize to outstanding high school research projects in the humanities submitted to the Ministry of Education as part of the matriculation exams. The prize is intended to raise awareness to the importance of the humanities among secondary-school students, and to encourage the writing of research projects in these areas. This is one of the only prizes awarded in Israel for research projects in the humanities. Every student who submitted a research project to the Ministry of Education in these areas, may submit it for consideration for the prize.
Each year, many dozens of students throughout the country and from every sector of the population submit their papers, in various areas of the humanities. Those include literature, history, Bible, language, Jewish thought, philosophy, Judaism, Arabic literature, Arabic language, Islam, archaeology, art, cinema, and music.
The papers are examined by a panel of judges, comprised of senior scholars and academics, who select the most outstanding submissions. These papers earn their authors monetary prizes. The panel chooses an additional five papers of special merit that earn their authors an honorable mention. The prizes are awarded at a ceremony at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. In recent years, the president of the State of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, has taken the awarding of the prizes under his wing, and the prize winners visit his residence and receive his congratulations.
* Translation taken from the website My Poetic Side