March 4, Updated April 7

Israel’s answer to the Nobel Prize, the Genesis Prize, has been jointly awarded to five organizations helping the Hamas-held hostages in Gaza and their families.

The Genesis Prize Foundation announced (on 28 February) that this year’s 2024 prize will not go to an individual, but instead to volunteer groups that have been providing treatment, counseling and support to the hostages – those now freed and those still in captivity – and their families. 

The $1 million award has been recognizing outstanding professional achievements, contributions to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values since 2013.

“As most of the Israeli society, our foundation fully supports the government’s stated goal of destroying Hamas,” said Stan Polovets, the American businessman, philanthropist and co-founder of the foundation.

“The purpose of this year’s award is not to influence policy, but to raise international awareness of the plight of the hostages and provide humanitarian assistance focused on recovery, rehabilitation and treatment,” he continued.

“This award is not a political statement, and it is not our intent to influence government policy. The Genesis Prize is a humanitarian award, and this year, it seeks to achieve three things: ensure the world does not forget the plight of the captives; provide additional aid to organizations focused on assisting the hostages and their families; and, last but not least, honor the selfless work of organizations that spontaneously emerged after October 7.”

The recipients, who will share the $1m prize, are:

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which was formed spontaneously the day after the 7 October massacre. Its mission is to return the abductees from Gaza, locate those missing from the attack, support the families, and handle medical, legal and other matters related to the abduction and its consequences. 

JAFI Fund for Victims of Terror, which provides immediate, critical financial assistance to victims and their families, and follows up with long-term overall recovery and rehabilitative support.

Lev Echad (Hebrew for “One Heart”), which supports the families of abducted people, and focuses on mental, financial and logistical needs of impacted families. 

Natal – The Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, which provides treatment to all Israeli citizens regardless of religion, ethnic background, color or socio-economic status.  

OneFamily – Overcoming Terror Together, which supports and empowers victims of terror and bereaved families, so they can achieve their emotional and financial independence, and successfully reintegrate into society.

Ruby Chen, whose 19-year-old son Itay was abducted from the Nahal Oz army base, expressed appreciation for the awards’ recognition.

“I am grateful to the Genesis Prize for shining a spotlight on the hostages to help bring them home now. Every day that my son Itay has been held by Hamas has been a living nightmare. I don’t know if he has food or water, where he slept, or even if he’s alive,” she said.

Rachel Goldberg, mother of 23-year-old hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, echoed Chen’s sentiment.

“The courage and symbolism of the Genesis Prize committee bestowing this year’s award to hostage family organizations is beyond praiseworthy and inspirational,” she said.

“It unequivocally publicizes to the entire world that there is no more ethically urgent and morally critical cause pressing on the Jewish people today. We fervently pray this gift will be instrumental in continuing the family organizations’ valiant and tireless efforts to bring the remaining 134 beloved hostages home now.”

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