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Ex-head of Israel space program critically injured when rioters burn Acre hotel

Rocket scientist Aby Har-Even, 84, was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize; now fighting for his life amid Jewish-Arab violence

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Aby Har-Even, a former head of the Israel Space Institute, during a lecture at Bar-Ilan University, in February 2013. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Aby Har-Even, a former head of the Israel Space Institute, during a lecture at Bar-Ilan University, in February 2013. (Screen capture/YouTube)

One of those seriously injured in the recent violence between Jewish and Arab communities is Aby Har-Even, a former leader of Israel’s space program and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize.

Har-Even, 84, was in critical condition Thursday after suffering from smoke inhalation when the hotel he was staying at in the port city of Acre was torched two days earlier.

He was being kept sedated and on ventilation at the Rambam Medical Center, where he is being treated.

Several more guests were injured when the Efendi Hotel was set on fire Tuesday during rioting by Arab residents of the city.

During his long military career, Har-Even held various research and development positions that saw advanced weaponry brought into the military’s arsenal and during which he headed a group that was awarded the Israel Prize for security.

After leaving the army Har-Even began working for the Israel Aerospace Industries in 1982, leading a team that developed Israel’s Shavit satellite rocket launcher.

Between 1995 and 2004 Har-Even directed the Israel Space Agency.

Since 2008 he has been a research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Bar Ilan University.

Clashes since Monday have seen the worst internal Jewish-Arab chaos for years, with scenes of rioting and hate rallies throughout numerous cities, some of which were once seen as symbols of coexistence.

Rioting in Acre has seen attacks on a number of Jewish properties, many of which have also reportedly been set alight. A small boutique hotel was torched on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday an Arab mob attacked a Jewish man in the city, causing him serious injuries. Doctors said his condition improved Thursday morning, though he is still sedated and on a ventilator.

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