TAU’s Professor Isaac Ben-Israel to receive Distinguished Service Award

Former head of Israeli Space Agency is the first Israeli to receive the honor

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The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) has announced that it will award its 2024 Distinguished Service Award to Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, Head of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and former chairman of the Israel Space Agency, for his “outstanding contribution to astronautics (space sciences)” in general and “to the advancement of the International Astronautical Federation” in particular. Professor Ben-Israel is the first Israeli to receive this honor.

“This is a general award, similar to a lifetime achievement award, which is awarded every year,” Professor Ben-Israel says. “I was the Chairman of the Israel Space Agency for 17 years, from 2005 to 2022. And before that I was the Head of the Directorate for Defense Research and Development and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT), responsible for the development of space for defense. So space isn’t something I’ve just come across by chance recently. Still, it’s nice to be recognized.”

Professor Ben-Israel is one of the key figures in the fields of space and cyber in Israel. While serving in the Israel Air Force, he studied mathematics, physics, and philosophy, earning a doctorate from TAU. For his contribution to building the technological capacity of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), he was awarded the Israel Defense Prize twice. Upon his retirement from the IDF, he joined the teaching staff of TAU.

In 2005 Professor Ben-Israel was appointed Chairman of the Israel Space Agency, and in 2007 he was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Kadima party. In 2011 he headed the National Cyber Initiative and founded the National Cyber Bureau within the prime minister’s office. In 2018, he was appointed (together with Professor Eviatar Matania from TAU) to head the National Initiative for Artificial Intelligence. In the years 2010-2017 he headed the National Council for Research and Development.

Professor Ben-Israel is one of the founders of Israel’s civilian space program and the Israeli space industry and strengthened their ties to the world through the IAF. The IAF, a voluntary association of space agencies, space industries, research institutes, and universities, is the world’s most important association for space. Its members in Israel include the Association for Aerospace Sciences in Israel, the Israel Space Agency, the Israel Aerospace Industries, and the Rafael Company. In 2012 Professor Ben-Israel became a lifetime member of the Federation.

“It is a true honor for us to attribute this award to you,” the president of the federation wrote to Professor Ben-Israel, because “you have been for many years an active participant to the success of the Federation.”

The Distinguished Service Award for 2024 will be awarded to Professor Ben-Israel in a ceremony that will be held at the Federation’s “Spring Meetings” in Paris.