Member of the Association of Liechtenstein Charitable Foundations e.V.
The Dan David Foundation is a charitable organization established by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan David in the year 2000. Based in Liechtenstein, the Foundation supports research, higher education and breakthrough achievements in the sciences and humanities.
The Foundation’s flagship project is the Dan David Prize, the largest history prize in the world, dedicated to recognizing and supporting outstanding achievement in the study of the human past.
The Foundation supports additional projects, in Israel and other countries, in fields that reflect the varied personal interests of the founder.
These focus mainly on archaeological and historical research, anthropology and paleontology, environmental protection and education, as well as the preservation of Jewish heritage.
The Dan David Prize is an international award, established in 2001, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University.
With a purse of $3 million, it awards up to nine prizes of $300,000 each year to outstanding early-and-mid-career scholars and practitioners in fields that deepen our understanding of the past, including, but not limited to, history, archaeology and anthropology. The remaining 10 percent of the prize purse funds an international postdoctoral fellowship program at Tel Aviv University.
Until 2021, the Prize recognized outstanding contributions to humanity in all fields of endeavor and awarded three prizes of $1 million in rotating fields. Previous laureates of the Prize include former US Vice President Al Gore, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, author Margaret Atwood, geneticist Craig Venter and immunologist Anthony Fauci.
In 2021, to mark the Prize’s 20th anniversary, the Foundation decided to adapt the award to the challenges of our times. We recognized that global investment in the humanities, and especially in the historical disciplines, is decreasing, even as the upheavals of the present highlight the importance of understanding our past to preserve open and democratic societies.
For this reason, the Foundation decided to focus the Prize’s resources on supporting the disciplines of historical research – a choice that also honors the legacy of Dan David, who was a passionate supporter of history and archaeology.
The nomination process for the Prize is open and the award is given on the basis of merit, without discrimination of gender, race, religion, nationality, or political affiliation. The winners are recommended by a selection committee composed of eminent experts in the many disciplines of historical research and then ratified by the board of the Prize.
While the Foundation’s signature initiative is the Dan David Prize, it supports additional projects, in Israel and other countries, especially in archaeological and historical research, anthropology and palaeontology, environmental protection and education, as well as the preservation of Jewish heritage. The Foundation accepts grant requests by invitation only.
In light of the pressing needs brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Dan David Foundation has decided to step outside its usual funding remit and provide targeted emergency aid to medical and other institutions, with a focus on countries where the Foundation is particularly active. The Foundation has allocated USD 3 million to help fund hospitals and other organizations dealing with this unprecedented crisis. The first round of recipients included the Italian Red Cross as well as a number of hospitals in Israel, namely the Shamir Medical Center, Emek Medical Center, Reuth Rehabilitation Hospital and Ziv Medical Center. The funds were used to purchase respirators, personal protective equipment and address other urgent medical needs which will assist these organizations in testing and treating Coronavirus patients.
In a second phase, the Dan David Foundation focused donations on the educational sector. Due to the pandemic, many organizations in this field have had their funding depleted or frozen. Organizations including the Israel Center for Educational Innovation, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Tamar Center Negev, Merchavim – The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel and the Jerusalem African Community Center were financially supported by the Dan David Foundation to fill funding gaps, assisting them in continuing their valuable work.
The Italia Judaica project is a documentary history of the Jews in Italy by Shlomo Simonsohn, Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. Its purpose is to locate, identify and research documentary material pertaining to the history of the Jews in Italy and to publish the results systematically. Hitherto, 25 volumes have appeared and another 8 are awaiting publication.
The Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania is the only surviving Jewish monument on Crete, following the destruction of the island’s community in 1944.
The building goes back to the Venetian period and became a synagogue in the 17th century. After the Holocaust, it remained abandoned and desecrated for half a century until it was painstakingly restored and re-dedicated in the late 1990s.
The Dan David Foundation is proud to support the continued maintenance of this monument that stands as witness to 2,300 years of Jewish life on Crete.
The Lod Music program offers a musical education to talented youths in the low-income and underdeveloped central Israeli town of Lod. Run jointly with the Lod Foundation, the program provides 30 three-year scholarships to local schoolchildren for musical training in jazz and light music.
The program includes five weekly hours of private instrumental lessons for each student, theory and ensemble sessions conducted by top teachers. The students receive professional training and continuous supervision, and perform at local events.
Teaching the next generation to respect nature is key to protecting the environment and securing humanity’s future. That is why the Dan David Foundation supports educational projects run by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority that involve local communities, and especially children, in efforts to protect nature, landscape and heritage through field trips and hands-on experiences. The activities that the Foundation supports include:
First Steps is a competition for small and medium-sized businesses in Jerusalem that supports young entrepreneurs wishing to open or develop their venture in the Israeli capital. While Israel has a well-established pipeline for funding high-tech startups, entrepreneurs wishing to invest in more traditional ventures often struggle to secure initial capital, particularly if they are young and can offer few financial guarantees.
Run jointly with the Jerusalem Foundation and the Mati Jerusalem Business Center, the First Steps competition provides winners with a no-interest, no-guarantee loan as well as expert support in drawing up a business plan and launching a successful commercial enterprise.
The competition focuses on creative business ideas with positive social impact, which have the potential to create jobs in Jerusalem. The project is inspired by Dan David’s personal history, as he faced very similar challenges at the start of his business career, which he was able to jumpstart thanks to a no-guarantee loan by a fellow entrepreneur who believed in his dream.
The Dan David Foundation provides a number of grants supporting the humanities and social sciences at Tel Aviv University. These include:
Inaugurated in 1996, the Dan David building at Tel Aviv University was built to provide the university with additional classroom space as it faced a major increase in enrollments, following the mass immigration to Israel from the Soviet Union during the early 1990s. Today, the Dan David building continues to play a central role in campus life and is fondly remembered by university alumni from all faculties.
Opened in 2018, the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Bio-History Research – part of the Natural History Museum at Tel Aviv University – hosts one of the most important anthropological collections in the world. It records the evolution of humans in the Middle East from 1.5 million years ago to the present, and holds artifacts not found anywhere else in the world, including the remains of the first modern humans out of Africa.
The Center aims to become a global focal point for research into human evolution by using advanced methods of scientific inquiry such as ancient DNA analysis and micro-CT scanning. It also hosts a cutting edge exhibition titled “What makes us human?” that tells the evolutionary story of our species to the broader public using innovative and interactive displays aimed at both children and adults.
The Dan David Foundation also sponsors multiple archaeological digs at prehistoric sites across Israel, such as the Misliya and Manot caves, which have been the sources of recent major discoveries illuminating the origin of our species’ first forays out of Africa.
The Dan David Foundation is a partner of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the creation of the IAA’s new campus in Jerusalem, mainly through the construction of the Dan David Archaeology Building. As part of the IAA’s new headquarters, this building will be a key venue for researching, storing and displaying newly unearthed archaeological finds from across Israel.
The Name Your Hero Competition for Israeli high school students is an essay contest linked to the Dan David Prize. Run in conjunction with Tel Aviv University’s Youth University unit, the project encourages high school students to write about a personality who represents a role model for them and inspires them to make a difference through their own future actions. The best essays are rewarded with a small scholarship.
In July 1960, a young man who yearned for freedom was finally able to flee Communist Romania, along with his mother and grandmothers. They were allowed to board the train carrying them to the border with just one suitcase each and 10 US dollars.
Despite starting out with almost nothing, that young man embraced liberty and life in the Western world, treading a path that would make him into a successful international entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Born May 23, 1929, Dan David had already lived through many personal and historical tragedies. After surviving the Holocaust in his native Bucharest, he was active in Zionist youth movements, organizing trains and ships for the Aliya Beth, the clandestine immigration of Jews to what was then British-controlled Palestine. For his role he was persecuted and periodically arrested by the Communist regime, and years later his contribution would be recognized by the Israeli government, which honored him with the "Lochamei Hamedina" medal, awarded to those who fought for the establishment of the state.
Despite the challenges of his early years, Dan studied economics at university in Bucharest and became an accomplished photographer, producing award-winning shots for various newspapers and magazines. At 31, when he was finally allowed to leave Romania, Dan emigrated to Israel and initially continued his activity as a photographer. But in 1961, as he put it, he decided to "leave the art of photography for the business of photography." His dream was to introduce Israel and other countries to the concept of automatic instant photography – what today is commonly known as a "photobooth."
As a nearly-penniless refugee, Dan did not have the initial capital to invest in his idea. Fortunately, a businessman who believed in him came to the rescue, offering a partnership and a loan without guarantees that helped jumpstart the activity. Dan David went on to create and manage companies in Israel, Italy, Spain, Japan, the United States and elsewhere, operating thousands of automatic machines that today continue to offer a variety of services to the public.
The initial loan he received was a pivotal experience, teaching him the value of giving back and helping others achieve their dreams. It was in this spirit that he initiated his philanthropic projects, creating the Dan David Foundation in 2000 and the Dan David Prize in 2001. With the prize, his aim was to reward those who have made a lasting impact on society and to help young students become the scholars and leaders of the future.
Dan David repeatedly expressed his philosophy: “Money is not an end in itself, but a means to fulfil a vision. This is the reason why I chose to create the Prize, to devote some of my fortune to rewarding and furthering the work of the eminent figures who have increased our knowledge of our past, improved our present and helped us forge a better future.”
Dan David’s honors include "Commander of the Italian Republic in the Order of Merit" and "Commander of the French Republic in the Order of Arts and Letters." He received an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University and was a member of the Board of Governors of the university.
Dan passed away on September 6, 2011, in London, leaving his wife, Gabriela, and son Ariel. His philanthropic work and vision live on thanks to the work of the Dan David Foundation.