Following the decision made by the Jerusalem City Council on Thursday, 17 Cheshvan 5776 (29 November 2015), Mayor Nir Barkat officially granted the title of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem to Professor Elie Wiesel.
Wiesel is a passionate advocate of the city of the Jerusalem and frequently speaks about the importance and power of the capital city, the eternal home of the Jewish people. He has described the city as “the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul,” and has asserted the critical importance of international support for Israel and Jerusalem–as its eternal and united capital. In light of Wiesel’s status as an exceptional and influential personality, the title of Honorary Citizen of the City of Jerusalem was bestowed upon him.
Mayor Barkat said, “With this award, it is a privilege and source of great pride for us to express the deep esteem and appreciation that Jerusalem feels for your personal heroism, your life’s work, and your extensive activities on behalf of our city over the years. In your Zionist, principled, and moral mission, your numerous writings and your public activities, you have contributed greatly to the State of Israel and to its capital city of Jerusalem. You are a faithful ambassador and true friend of our city, and through your work you have demonstrated uncompromising support for those who dwell in Zion, as well as a truly shared destiny. Your ability to touch the hearts of so many people on a personal level and your significant contributions to the Jewish people have made you a global ambassador of the Jewish people, our homeland, the State of Israel, and our eternal capital, Jerusalem. For me, Wiesel represents the voice of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.”
Professor Wiesel stated, “In my life I have published more than 60 books, but believe me when I tell you, Mr. Mayor, that Jerusalem is the heart and soul of my work. I am moved to receive the Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem title, and I will continue to act for Jerusalem and for the State of Israel.”
The official ceremony took place at the home of Ira and Ingeborg Rennert in New York. Relatives and acquaintances of Wiesel and his wife were in attendance, as well as two additional honorary citizens of Jerusalem, Mr. James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, and businessman and philanthropist Charles Bronfman. In addition, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, the Hon. Danny Danon, was present and also spoke at the event.
During the ceremony, Wiesel was awarded a scroll of parchment written by a scribe, which enumerated the reasons he was selected as an Honorary Citizen by Jerusalem’s City Council. He was also awarded a gold pin with the emblem of the city.
For many years, the Jerusalem Municipality has awarded the Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem title to personalities who make a unique contribution to the city, as a token of appreciation and thanks for many years of activity on behalf of the city and its residents. The title is granted to presidents and prime ministers, scientists and intellectuals, statesmen and leaders. The first person to receive the title was former President Professor Chaim Weizmann. The title was later granted to Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, and to Moshe Wallach, founder of the Shaare Zedek hospital. This is an award bestowed on a limited number of people, and since Mayor Barkat began his tenure seven years ago, it has been awarded to only three people, including Wiesel.
Born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania (now Romania), Elie Wiesel survived the horrors of the Holocaust and instead of succumbing to despair at the evil perpetrated during humanity’s bleakest hour, he went on to carry a message of tolerance, coexistence, and peace to peoples and nations around the world.
His vast literary output, spanning dozens of books, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. His masterpiece memoir Night, originally published in 1955, is regarded as the most famous and recognizable piece of Holocaust literature. Wiesel has worked as a journalist in Israel, a teacher in the United States, and served informally as both a representative of the Jewish people and the face of the dwindling community of Holocaust survivors to world leaders from around the planet, several of who consider him a close confidant. In addition, he has won the highest civilian awards in the United States: the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 1992), and the Congressional Gold Medal (in 1985). He also received the Israeli President’s Medal for 2013.
He distributes most of the profits from the books he has written through the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.