At Independence Day contest, PM vows to put a Bible on the moon
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'Israel will reach the moon'

At Independence Day contest, PM vows to put a Bible on the moon

Citing the holy book as the source of Israel’s ‘initiative, determination and daring,’ Netanyahu promises to press ahead with a second lunar mission

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks to International Bible Quiz for Youth winner Yonatan Weisman of Jerusalem, left, on Israel's Independence Day, May 9, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks to International Bible Quiz for Youth winner Yonatan Weisman of Jerusalem, left, on Israel's Independence Day, May 9, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Thursday for a printed Bible to be carried to the moon by the next Israeli spacecraft to make the journey, and credited Judaism’s foundational text for the “daring” and “spirit” Israelis demonstrate in the attempt.

Speaking at the International Bible Quiz for Youth, which is held every year on Independence Day, the prime minister vowed to send a second spacecraft after the first, dubbed “Beresheet” (Genesis), crashed onto the lunar surface on April 11 due to complications resulting from a gyroscope failure.

“Last month we felt tremendous excitement: the spacecraft Beresheet was a hand’s breadth from the moon,” Netanyahu said in his remarks at the Bible Quiz event in Jerusalem.

Noting that the lander carried a digital copy of the Bible, he announced, “that’s not enough…. We’re going to send the spacecraft again, and it’s very likely it will be carrying a small [printed] Bible. I want the Bible to land on the moon, because it is written [in Psalms 8:4], ‘When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have established.’ The State of Israel will reach the moon.”

Israel was by far the smallest nation aiming to land a spacecraft on the moon, he noted.

One of the last photos taken by Beresheet before crash landing into the moon on April 11, 2019. (Courtesy SpaceIL)

“Very few nations have orbited the moon and reached the moon, and up to now only three superpowers landed there, and we want to be the fourth nation to do so. After all, the other nations were a bit bigger than us — the United States, China, Russia — and there is a very good chance that within two-three years we will be that fourth power.

“How do we do it?” he asked rhetorically. “We do it through initiative, determination and daring — given to us by our spirit. And our spirit comes from the Bible. That’s not just words. That spirit comes from the Bible, because there’s no meaning to the enormous journey we have made to return to our land, to our birthplace, if we had not carried with us our faith, our tradition and our yearning for the homeland.”

The Beresheet effort has figured prominently in Israel’s 71st Independence Day celebrations. On Wednesday night, Morris Kahn, the chairman of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that launched and spearheaded the initiative, was honored with one of Israel’s highest civilian honors — the lighting of a torch at the central Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem.

Beresheet on display before its launch, December 17, 2018. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Kahn used the opportunity to announce he will again contribute funding for a second attempt to land an Israeli spacecraft on the moon.

A South African-Israeli billionaire philanthropist, Kahn contributed some $30 million of the total $100 million (NIS 370 million) cost of the first lander — a novel approach that came at a fraction of the cost of previous, state-funded efforts to land on the moon.

The project was a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.

Kahn had already announced, just days after the crash, that he was launching project Beresheet 2, saying “We started something and we need to finish it. We’ll put our flag on the moon.”

Following that announcement, Israel Aerospace Industries, which partnered on Beresheet, said it would gladly take part in future SpaceIL ventures.

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