Herzog on video link with Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe aboard the International Space Station

April 11, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog have spoken tonight via video link with Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe, live from the International Space Station, where he is stationed as part of the Rakia Mission.

President Herzog and First Lady [far rt] in touch with the space station Photo: Haim Zach

The Rakia Mission, which launched Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe to the International Space Station as part of the Ax-1 crew, is led by the Ramon Foundation in collaboration with the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology.

During the mission, Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe will conduct dozens of scientific and technological experiments, produce educational content for Israeli schoolchildren in Hebrew, and display and create Israeli art in space.

President Herzog said: “During these difficult times on the ground, this project, the exciting launch and experience that the whole House of Israel is watching, is a point of light in the sky. These are moments that fill us with inspiration and excitement. And certainly in days when we have seen so many points of darkness and pain here in Tel Aviv, this is also an opportunity to console the bereaved families, to express our pain and to say, life continues with full force. We do not surrender to terror or anything else—not when it strikes us on the streets of Tel Aviv or anywhere else in the country, and of course not when it strikes holy sites such as Joseph’s Tomb. Nothing can challenge our existence here or our commitment.

We look up at the sky and know that there is a representative of the State of Israel up there, a representative of humanity, and also a representative of our people, the Jewish People. And this representative is working at the International Space Station, reading Hebrew poetry, conducting dozens of fascinating experiments that we will yet discuss—this is a supremely important occasion.”

The President added: “Together with Michal and our family, we watched Eytan’s fascinating launch into space and it was a really special sight. Our prayer went up with him, our prayer for his safe journey. And as we got ready for our conversation with him, we recalled the verse, ‘The heaven is Yours, the earth too; the world and all it holds—You established them’ (Psalms 89:12). It’s an experience that fills one with inspiration and faith.

I think that space is one of the subjects that unites us the most here. It takes down interpersonal barriers and creates shared dreams.”

During their conversation, Eytan Stibbe surprised the President, showing him from space the copy of the Prayer for the State of Israel that the President gave him before his departure. The prayer, composed by the President’s grandfather, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, was presented to the astronaut inscribed in the rabbi’s own hand on a glass cube.

The President and Eytan Stibbe then spoke together with students taking part in a variety of space and science initiatives. During the exchange, Noa Zeitoun, a 17-year-old student, representing the She Space program at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev: “The program is about encouraging girls to study science, technology, and math. A month ago, we travelled to the UAE and visited the Emirati space agency. We saw that science surpasses religion and culture; it is above everything and can serve as a bridge between anything. Science will make Planet Earth a better place.”

President Herzog responded to the students and Stibbe, saying: “We are watching history unfold in front of our eyes, seeing where humankind can reach. Think about this facility, this involvement—nobody can take it for granted. It’s fascinating to see the power of man and his strength, large and small. That is what is great about nature and humanity. May we receive good news, both from Earth and from space. To the young generation, I say: it’s in your hands. Keep going!”

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe told President Herzog: “This is the first time that we are at the International Space Station with the Israeli flag. This is very moving. The wonderful prayer, the Prayer for the State of Israel, composed by the President’s grandfather, is with me here. It takes around two days to adjust to the different flow of liquids, to the feeling of hunger and thirst, which is very different from on Earth. One special line I’d like to emphasize from the prayer, which the President gave me, is: ‘And grant peace on earth and eternal joy for all its inhabitants.’ Thank you all very much, this is really exciting, and I was happy to see you! I am sure we’ll share many experiences after I return to Earth soon.”

Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology director-general Hilla Hadad Chemlnik: “The International Space Station will become a classroom in which tens of thousands of Israeli schoolchildren will study. Reaching space allows us, as a country, to take the advantage of the free market and entrepreneurship and leverage them for the benefit of scientific and technological progress, and for educational objectives at the national level.

The Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology has conducted over the past year a series of educational space projects with the Ramon Foundation, which are reaching their pinnacle here. Future generations will enjoy the fruits of this event, in which for the first time the International Space Agency is made accessible to Israeli school children, in the Hebrew language. Precisely in these crazy days, as the State of Israel confronts difficult terror attacks, pain and grief, the Rakia Mission in space gives us hope.”

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