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Reaching the moon and beyond…

Reaching the moon and beyond… 

Tomorrow night the Jewish people will gather around festive Pesach Seder tables and recite from the Haggadah: “In every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he had left Egypt.”

Pesach, known as the celebration of our freedom, marks the redemption of the Israelites after hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were not alone in their liberation from Egypt over 3,500 years ago—we all were.

More than anything, the Exodus from Egypt granted humankind the concept of “freedom,” both physical and spiritual.

Seventy-one years ago, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, declared the rebirth of the Jewish State. Since that day, May 14, 1948, the Jewish homeland, like a boat on stormy water, has been shaken, tossed and slammed by vicious waves. Nevertheless, just like a boat, we have also seen plenty of sunshine, blue skies and blessed winds. Never in our 71 years has the boat capsized, nor has the spirit of our Jewish State ever broken.

Repeatedly, miraculous acts of spiritual strength, moral vigor and intellectual abilities led us through dangerous water, steering our path not only to survival, but also to prosperity, to thriving, to becoming light upon the nations, to reaching the tomorrow, today.

This Pesach I will be sitting at our Seder table feeling more liberated than ever. The State of Israel, with its notorious sense of chutzpah (nerve), reached the moon!

We have broken every possible barrier: our desert blooms, our faucets run desalinated water. Our technological achievements provide solutions to problems worldwide and improve everyone’s quality of life. We repair the world, all of it, including the worlds of our hostile neighbors—and we reach the moon!

SpaceIL is the first recipient of the $1 million Lunar XPrize Moonshot Award. Israel is the seventh country to get to the moon, and the fourth country to reach the lunar surface.

In the final moments of Beresheet’s—the Israeli spacecraft, meaning “in the beginning”—four million-mile journey, approximately 488 feet above the moon’s surface, engine problems caused the landing failure, just as the spacecraft touched the moon. As we saw on the livestream, the spaceship, “reached the moon, but not in the way we had hoped”. We may have not landed as hoped, but we certainly launched not only Beresheet, the first Israeli spaceship, but also a new desire, now joined by millions of Israeli dreamers, mostly children, to reach the moon—and beyond. The work on Beresheet II have already begun. We will eventually land with pride, we always do.

However, reaching the heavens is not Israel’s only great achievement at the moment.  In a world-first, Israeli scientists have created a live heart in a revolutionary new 3D-printing process that combines human tissue taken from a patient’s own biomaterials and cells. Israeli scientist once again are paving the way for new technology that would make it possible to develop any kind of tissue implant from one small, fatty tissue biopsy.

Being the light unto the nations means more than technological developments and mind-blowing achievements. It requires our spirit and ethics to join forces and define our liberated being to be what it is.

The outgoing Israeli minister for culture announced that in honor of Israel’s 71st anniversary, the mothers of three Israeli boys who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists in 2014 would take part in this year’s torch-lighting ceremony marking Israel’s Independence Day.

These courageous three women became a symbol of unity, through their ability to rise from sorrow and personal mourning to the holy task of unifying and rebuilding. They were able to look ahead to tomorrow, through teary eyes today.

Only a liberated soul, one that would not surrender to terror and evil, or refuse to give up and break, can rise from ashes. This exemplifies what being a free people really means.

The Ethics of our Fathers (Pirkei Avot) (6:2) teaches us, “No person can truly be considered free, except the one who engages in the study of Torah.” Allowing myself a different interpretation, Torah in a wider sense, offers us a way to push our intellect, delving into the profundities of the human spirit, always reaching beyond, pushing away any physical or spiritual boundaries. That is what true freedom is about!

Standing beside those three mothers at the torch-lighting ceremony this year will be Morris Kahn, the Israeli billionaire and funder of SpaceIL and Kfir Damari, one of the company’s founders.  On one hand, we have the triumph of the human spirit; on the other, the triumph of our imaginations.

Beresheet took off to the moon with the message Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live, on board. Thanks to dreamers and believers, the people of Israel are indeed chai, alive, today more than ever, thriving to better than tomorrow, as a free people in our free land.  

“We choose to go to the moon… not because [it is] easy, but because [it is]  hard … because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept … and one we intend to win.”—President John F Kennedy, 1962

Wishing you a wonderful, happy and liberated Pesach,

Leah

Vice President,  Director, JCC Israel Center

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