The 2015 Israel Prize in bible studies and Far East research were awarded to two professors: Shmuel Ahituv for bible studies and Zvi Schiffrin for Far East research.
Schiffrin is considered the father of East Asian Studies in Israel, having established that department at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1968 and served as its director.
The Israel Prize committee called Schiffrin one of the world’s leading historians of modern Chinese history, having produced critical research on the Revolution in China and its leaders.
Ahituv, affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is one of the world’s top bible scholars, having made major contributions to the study of the history of Israel in biblical times and to the interpretation of biblical literature.
He deciphered ancient Hebrew inscriptions and made them accessible to researchers and students in Israel and worldwide.
The Israel Prizes are under something of a cloud this year, due to the attempt by the Netanyahu government to disqualify three of the award judges, two for the literature prize and one for film.
This effort prompted a number of other prize judges to quit their positions and a number of the candidates to withdraw their names from the competition.
Two weeks ago the prime minister retracted the disqualifications on advice from the offices of the attorney general and state comptroller.
The prime minister’s Likud Party had said in a statement that the process of choosing the judges "gave clear preference to those with very extremist and severely controversial opinions – including support for refusal to serve in the IDF.
"This process did not provide proper representation to large and important parts of society, culture and the Israeli experience, including a lack of appropriate gender and sectoral representation."