Brig.Gen.(res.) Ran Pecker-Ronen
The Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, established by Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, for the year 5768 – 2008, is awarded to Brig. Gen. (res.) Ran Pecker-Ronen -- pilot, fighter and commander -- for epitomizing bravery, self-sacrifice, and leadership, for his outstanding approach to the educational and societal challenges facing Zionism today, and for his success in establishing the "Zahala" project, recruiting army officers to the forefront of social involvement for the sake of Israel's youth.
Ran Pecker-Ronen was born in Israel in 1936. He was drafted into the
Air Force and served there over the course of 35 years in a long list of
positions, including as a combat pilot, wing commander, flight school commander,
and base commander. His last position in the Air Force was commander of
air operations division.
During the course of his service, he participated in the Sinai Campaign (1956), Six Day War (1967), and Yom Kippur War (1973), as well as scores of additional operations. Between the Sinai Campaign and the Yom Kippur War he downed seven enemy planes in some 350 operational flights.
He participated in the Six Day War as commander of a Mirage wing, in Operation "Moked" in which the Arab air forces were destroyed. After the war, when he was supposed to travel as a senior officer, to study in the U.S., he volunteered to return and command a wing of Phantom jets after the commander of the wing was killed.
In the Yom Kippur War, he was an example of fortitude, bravery, and leadership in the most difficult hours for the State of Israel in general and the Air Force in particular, when he demonstrated personal example and went out in person at the head of the pilots of his base on many operational flights over enemy territory, despite his position as the commander of the Tel-Nof Air Force base and a senior officer.
After his release from the IDF at the level of Brigadier General, he turned to private business; and, after a few years, he accepted the call to serve as Israel's Consul General in Los Angeles.
Upon his return to Israel in 1993, he returned to private business but in tandem decided to deal, personally, in the education and instruction of young people in the values of Zionism and good citizenship. He began instructing a small group of at-risk teens, and personally accompanied them through high school, successfully completing the matriculation exams, until their recruitment into combat service in the IDF. Of 12 youths, two became officers and five served in the regular army.
In light of his success with the first group of youth, he decided to establish the Zahala project with the goal of instilling Zionist values, good citizenship, and social involvement in today's Israeli youth. The program is currently comprised of over seven hundred students and scores of instructors, most of whom are former officers and commanders and some of whom today serve in senior positions in the public and private sectors and volunteer their time to Zahala. The project’s level of success can be measured, first and foremost, by the high rate of recruitment into the IDF and its officer ranks by Zahala graduates.