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

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.”

“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.

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.

Image: 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)

The winner of the 2019 International Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth is Yonatan Weissman, 18, a resident of Jerusalem from the Degel Yerushalayim Yeshiva in Nachalim. Benjamin Colchamiro, 15, a New Jersey resident from the Kushner Yeshiva in Livingston, United States, came in second.

The event took place at the Jerusalem Theater in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog.

The quiz took place this year for the 56th year, and this time it was held under the theme of “preserving unity, maintaining uniqueness”.

This year’s candidates include Adar Geller of Israel, Netanel Weiner of the United States, David Abedi of Panama, Margie Trunjan of Mexico, Lilia Spielwitz of Belarus, Yechiel Shulman of the United States, Yonatan Weissman of Israel, Naomi Paur of Argentina, Benjamin Colchamiro of the United States, Emmanuel Kohavi of Australia, Eliyahu Mizrachi from Mexico, Aaron Widman from Canada, Matan Kaplan from South Africa, Yarin Bar from Israel, Rafael Katan from Mexico, Itay Shtober from Israel.