Education minister honors pair for lifetime achievement.
By Yair Ettinger and Zafrir Rinat

Rabbi Haim Druckman, a leading religious-Zionist rabbi who until last month headed the Conversion Authority, and Azaria Alon, one of Israel’s earliest environmental activists, are the winners of this year’s Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced yesterday.


Alon, 93, was cited for his unique contribution to nature conservation in Israel, for nurturing and advancing the teaching of Israeli geography and geographic research, and for his contribution to hikers and tourism.

Azaria Alon was born in Ukraine and made aliya in 1925; he joined Kibbutz Beit Hashita in 1938 and still lives there. He was a founder of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the country’s first environmental organization, along with Prof. Amotz Zahavi and Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn. The three fought against the draining of the Hula Lake, one of the first efforts at environmental activism here.

In addition to his work at SPNI, he was known for a radio program he hosted on vistas in Israel, which he began in 1959 and continued for more than 50 years. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most veteran host of a radio program.

Alon has also written or edited over 50 books on nature and Israeli nature sites, and was the chief editor of the 12-volume Encyclopedia of Plant and Animal Life in Israel.

Alon had previously been cited for the Israel Prize when SPNI won it in 1980. SPNI Director Moshe Packman yesterday called Alon “a symbol and environmental pioneer.”