- the humanities, social sciences, and Jewish studies
- the natural and exact sciences
- culture, arts, communication and sports
- lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the nation (since 1972)
The recipients of the prize are Israeli citizens or organizations who have displayed excellence in their field(s), or have contributed strongly to Israeli culture. The winners are selected by committees of judges, who pass on their recommendations to the Education Minister.
Prize winners are elected by ad-hoc committees, appointed by the minister of education for each category each year. Decisions of the committee must be unanimous.
As of 2004, the prize has been awarded 551 times. Though the prize is generally awarded to Israeli citizens only, in exceptional cases it can be awarded to non-Israelis who have held Israeli residency for many years. Zubin Mehta won the Israel Prize in 1991. Mehta is originally from India, and is Music Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The prize money was 75,000 NIS as of 2008.