November 21, 2018

Episode 92 – Taking Israel to the Moon

Yariv Bash had a simple idea: taking Israel to the moon, for the first time. To pursue his new dream he quit a luxurious job in the prime ministers office, and founded the NGO SpaceIL. Together with his co-founders, they quickly joined Google’s spaceX competition, battling with groups from all around the world to be the first to send a spacecraft to the moon.Together with his co-founders, they quickly joined Google’s spaceX competition, battling with groups from all around the world to be the first to send a space ship to the moon.

For many years, spaceIL was leading the competition. But then something unexpected happened. Bash, an enthusiast of extreme sports, had a severe ski accident, which left him on a wheelchair.

Yariv Bash joins us today to talk about Israel’s race to the Moon, and his journey race to get his old life back.

SpaceIL’s English website

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That’s All

“When I was a kid,” he said, “I used to stare up at the moon and think it a window.”

I turned to the man beside me, dressed in all white from kippah down, and asked:

“A window to where?”

He closed his eyes.

“A world just next door; a world of pure light all around, as far as the eye can see.”

“That’s all? Just light?” I asked.

“That’s All.” He said.

Hannah Arin is a junior at Pitzer College pursuing a double major in religious studies and philosophy.

The FAA: Regulating business on the moon

The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon.

According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches.

The Federal Aviation Administration, in a previously undisclosed late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said the agency intends to “leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.”

In other words, experts said, Bigelow could set up one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and expect to have exclusive rights to that territory – as well as related areas that might be tapped for mining, exploration and other activities.

However, the FAA letter noted a concern flagged by the U.S. State Department that “the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon.

The United Nations Outer Space treaty, in part, requires countries to authorize and supervise activities of non-government entities that are operating in space, including the moon. It also bans nuclear weapons in space, prohibits national claims to celestial bodies and stipulates that space exploration and development should benefit all countries.

“We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon. We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications,” said the FAA letter’s author, George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Transportation.

“We recognize the private sector’s need to protect its assets and personnel on the moon or on other celestial bodies,” the FAA wrote in the December letter to Bigelow Aerospace. The company, based in Nevada, is developing the inflatable space habitats. Bigelow requested the policy statement from the FAA, which oversees commercial space transportation in the U.S.

The letter was coordinated with U.S. departments of State, Defense, Commerce, as well as NASA and other agencies involved in space operations. It expands the FAA’s scope from launch licensing to U.S. companies’ planned activities on the moon, a region currently governed only by the nearly 50-year old UN space treaty.

But the letter also points to more legal and diplomatic work that will have to be done to govern potential commercial development of the moon or other extraterrestrial bodies.

“It’s very much a wild west kind of mentality and approach right now,” said John Thornton, chief executive of private owned Astrobotic, a startup lunar transportation and services firm competing in a $30 million Google-backed moon exploration XPrize contest.

Among the pending issues is lunar property and mineral rights, a topic that was discussed and tabled in the 1970s in a sister UN proposal called the Moon Treaty. It was signed by just nine countries, including France, but not the United States.

“It is important to remember that many space-faring nations have national companies that engage in commercial space activities. They will definitely want to be part of the rule making process,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, a professor of space law at University of Mississippi .

Bigelow Aerospace is expected to begin testing a space habitat aboard the International Space Station this year. The company intends to then operate free-flying orbital outposts for paying customers, including government agencies, research organizations, businesses and even tourists. That would be followed by a series of bases on the moon beginning around 2025, a project estimated to cost about $12 billion.

Company founder Robert Bigelow said he intends to invest $300 million of his own funds, about $2.5 billion in hardware and services from Bigelow Aerospace and raise the rest from private investors.

The FAA’s decision “doesn’t mean that there’s ownership of the moon,” Bigelow told Reuters. “It just means that somebody else isn’t licensed to land on top of you or land on top of where exploration and prospecting activities are going on, which may be quite a distance from the lunar station.”

Other companies could soon be testing rights to own what they bring back from the moon. Moon Express, another aspiring lunar transportation company, and also an XPrize contender, intends to return moon dust or rocks on its third mission.

“The company does not see anything, including the Outer Space Treaty, as being a barrier to our initial operations on the moon,” said Moon Express co-founder and president Bob Richards. That includes “the right to bring stuff off the moon and call it ours.”

Adelson donation helps Israeli moon mission meet $37m budget

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife have pledged $16.4 million to fund the Israeli SpaceIL mission to the moon.

The donation by the American Jewish couple’s Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Family Foundation was reported Thursday on the Israeli science news site,

“Sheldon and I are thrilled to be supporting the SpaceIL association in its effort to land the first Israel spacecraft on the moon,” Miriam Adelson was quoted as saying. “As a physician and an Israel-born scientist, I am particularly proud of the positive effect this will have on a generation of young Israelis and non-Israelis,” she said.

With 20 full-time staff and 250 volunteers, the SpaceIL project aims to land a spacecraft on the moon at a cost of approximately $37 million.

The Adelson donation means the program has the necessary budget to push ahead with the mission, SpaceIL’s fundraising and development head Daniel Saat told the London Jewish Chronicle.

SpaceIL is taking part in the Google Lunar X competition launched in 2007 and is the only team running its project through philanthropic donations rather than corporate sponsorship, according to the Chronicle.

Yariv Bash, one of the co-founders of SpaceIL, said that once the craft makes it to the lunar surface, he hopes it will also carry out a number of groundbreaking experiments including the first attempt to grow plants outside the earth.

Israeli scientists shoot for the moon with dishwasher-sized spacecraft

It's only the size of a dishwasher and weighs as much as giant panda, but its inventors are hoping this spacecraft will go where no other Israeli vessel has gone before – to the moon.

Working on a shoestring budget, the Israeli scientists and engineers building the shuttle – temporarily named “Sparrow” – believe it will land on the moon by the end of 2015, a feat only the United States, Russia and China have managed so far.

The landing will be the toughest task in the Sparrow's mission, not least because of the moon's many mountains and craters, said Yariv Bash, an electronic engineer and the founder of SpaceIL, the group building the spacecraft.

“(Landing) is going to be either 15 minutes of horror or 15 minutes of fame, depending on the outcome,” he told Reuters.

SpaceIL, which is backed mainly by philanthropists, was founded to compete for Google's LunarX Prize, unveiled in 2007. The $20 million prize will go to the first team to land a spacecraft on the moon, make it jump 500 metres and transmit images and video back to earth.

Thirty-three teams started out in the running and they are now down to 18, including competitors from the United States, Italy, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Canada, India and Chile.

SpaceIL believes it has an advantage because the unmanned craft is comparatively small – the size of a dishwasher with legs – and weighs just 140 kg (300 pounds).

Most of the craft's weight is its fuel and propulsion system. By the time it lands on the moon, it will weigh a mere 40 kg.

“The smaller you are, the less it will cost to go to space,” Bash said.

The grey, six-sided shuttle will be fitted with nine computers and eight cameras, making it the smartest and smallest spacecraft to have landed on the moon, according to Bash.

At the moment there is just a prototype, with plans to start building the real machine later this year, a process that should take 12-18 months.


SpaceIL has raised $21 million in donations out of a total budget of $36 million it believes is needed to build and land the craft. It plans a crowd-funding event to secure the rest of the financing.

The group estimates other teams' budgets at $50-$100 million.

Unlike some of the other competitors in the space race, SpaceIL – which has a team of 250 people of mainly volunteers – is a nonprofit organisation and does not need to show investors a return.

“It's a harder sell to private investors,” said Daniel Saat, SpaceIL's head of business development. “We have to convince investors we are doing something of impact for Israel that inspires and changes the country.”

Even if it does not win, SpaceIL hopes to create an “Apollo effect” that will lead to a new wave of space engineers and scientists in the way Neil Armstrong's 1969 moon walk did, and turn space exploration into Israel's next start-up industry.

“For $36 million, we are going to show the world that there is no longer this glass ceiling in outer space exploration,” Saat said.

Israel, which has experience in sending spy satellites to the lower orbit, does not have capabilities to launch into space, although the Israeli Space Agency is looking to develop a civilian space programme.

SpaceIL said it was close to signing a launch agreement and was considering sites in the United States, Europe, Russia and Kazakhstan.

The Israeli craft will remain on the moon indefinitely and SpaceIL is mulling doing a scientific experiment in studying the magnetic core of the moon.

Should SpaceIL win the prize, they plan to invest the money into new projects, which may include a probe to Mars.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Raissa Kasolowsky

SpaceIL: Israel’s race to the moon

One day in 2015, a small Israeli spacecraft will land on and reconnoiter the moon, joining the United States and former Soviet Union in the world’s most exclusive extraterrestrial club.

That vision is not fantasy or chauvinistic braggadocio, but the sober prediction of Israel’s most experienced engineers and space scientists.

According to the leaders of the SpaceIL (for Israel) project, the unmanned micro-spaceship will pack more instrumentation into a smaller and lighter capsule than ever achieved before.

During a visit to Los Angeles in mid-February, Yariv Bash, founder and CEO of SpaceIL, and Ronna Rubinstein, the chief of staff, outlined the genesis, scope and anticipated impact of the moon mission.

In late 2010, Bash heard about the Google Lunar X competition, which offered awards up to $30 million for the first team to land a robotic craft on the moon that would perform several complex missions. For one, the craft had to move 500 meters (1,640 feet) from its landing site to explore the moon’s surface – or send out a search vehicle to do so – and beam high-definition videos back to earth.

Bash, an electronics and computer engineer, said that SpaceIL will traverse the distance in one spectacular jump. SpaceIL, by the way, is only an interim name and when the time comes will be replaced with an official designation.

Initial names suggested by the project staff include Golda, for the former Israeli prime minister, Ramon, for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia shuttle disaster, and Hatikvah, Hebrew for “hope” and the title of the Israeli national anthem.

As soon as Bash absorbed the details of the Google competition, he posted one sentence on Facebook, asking, “Who is coming with me to the moon?” Among the first respondents was Rubinstein, a lawyer who now oversees the project’s organization, marketing and fundraising.

The total estimated cost for the project will be $30 million, of which $20 million has been raised so far, primarily from industry and private contributors. The Israeli government has allotted funds for 10 percent of the total cost, the maximum a government can put up under the contest rules.


Israeli President Shimon Peres visits SpaceIL. Photo courtesy SpaceIL

According to Israeli statistics, the government money will be well spent, since for every $1 invested in Israel’s 10 satellites and other high-tech research, $7 are returned in civilian and commercial applications.

The prize for the winning entry is $20 million, with another $10 million available in bonus prizes for accomplishing different aspects of the mission.

But it’s not the prize money that is driving the 11 full-time staff members and some 300 professionals who are volunteering their services evenings and weekends, after finishing their regular day jobs. In any case, any money won will go to schools to enhance math and technology programs.

“What counts for us is the impact the moon landing will have on Israelis and Jews around the world, to show what Israel is and what it can do,” Bash said.

Most important is to instill both pride and scientific curiosity in Israeli youngsters, Bash added. Together with the Weizmann Institute of Science, the project has launched a nationwide program of high school visits, which so far has involved 27,000 students.

Plans also call for lectures and exhibits in Diaspora communities, and Bash and Rubinstein will address a plenary session at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC during the first week of March.

Other key partners in the project are Israel Aerospace Industries, Tel Aviv University, Technion, Israeli Space Agency, Ramon Foundation and private companies like Rafael and Bezeq.

The Israeli spacecraft, whatever its final name, will compete against 24 other entries, of which 11 will be launched by various U.S. teams. Other competitors will come mainly from Europe and some from South American countries, but none from China, or, for that matter, Iran.

Early favorites are entries from the United States, Israel and Spain, Bash said.

Israel’s main strength, he noted, “lies in its nano-miniaturized technology, and SpaceIL will be the smallest craft ever sent into space.”

At liftoff, it will weigh 120 kilograms (264 pounds), but on landing, after burning off its fuel, it will weigh less than 40 kilograms (88 pounds). To get into orbit, SpaceIL will piggyback onto a commercial rocket, either American or Russian, at a cost of between $3 million to $5 million.

To Israelis watching the moon landing from 239,000 miles away, “it will be the most exciting reality show of all,” Bash hopes.

The impact on Israelis, especially young people, would be similar to that created in 1969 by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he descended from the Apollo spacecraft to the moon’s surface, proclaiming, “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Israeli supporters of SpaceIL already have their own inspirational motto, taken from Theodor Herzl’s words as he prophesized the future creation of a Jewish state.

“Im Tirzu Ein Zo Agada” – “If you will it, it is no dream.”

For additional information, visit

Lust, spectacle on a biblical scale: Why we love silent films

Sure, you’ve heard of old movies, but one highlight of this year’s Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival reaches back 88 years, reviving the silent film “The Moon of Israel.”

The revival fits right in with the rediscovery of the silent film genre, kick-started by the Oscar best-film win for “The Artist.” While this art form might seem to have died when the studios brought sound to the cinema in the late 1920s, the ghosts of movies past are stirring again.

“Moon of Israel” was the creation of Hungarian-Jewish director Mihaly Kertesz, who shot the Austrian production in Vienna and released it in 1924 under the title “Die Sklavenkönigin” (The Queen of the Slaves).

The European success of “Moon” and the preceding “Sodom and Gomorrah” impressed Hollywood mogul Jack Warner, who invited the director to come to America and make a biblical epic for his studio.

Kertesz arrived in 1926, Anglicized the spelling of his name to Michael Curtiz, and obliged his new employer by making “Noah’s Ark” in 1928.

Curtiz’s script for “Moon of Israel” was based on the book of the same title by H. Rider Haggard, who, in turn, was “inspired” by the biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Such inspiration jazzed up the original version by introducing as a central theme the torrid romance of an Israelite slave girl Merapi (aka The Moon of Israel) and Prince Seti, slated to succeed his father as pharaoh.

By his nature, Seti is what nowadays might be considered a bleeding-heart liberal. Although quite the bare-chested hunk, he prefers to consort with poets rather than compete in horse races, and he tells his father, Pharaoh Menapta, that he should really listen to Moses and let the Israelites go.

For this impertinence, Seti is stripped of his succession to the throne, which leaves him free to pursue his courtship of Merapi in earnest.

Even in a somewhat blurred DVD copy of “Moon,” the film’s scale is impressive, particularly in depicting the massive flight of the Israelite men, women, children and cattle. The elderly men are draped in prayer shawls, women stumble under their burden, and even the commanding Moses leans heavily on his stick.

In one of the most expensive Austrian films up to that time, the producers spent lavishly on thousands of extras, costumes and special effects, knowing that in America, director Cecil B. DeMille was shooting his own biblical extravaganza, “The Ten Commandments” (not to be confused with the 1956 Charlton Heston movie) in such California locations as Nipomo Dunes near Pismo Beach and in Seal Beach.

According to most critics — now and then — “Moon” beat “Ten Commandments” handily in the climactic parting of the Red Sea spectacle.

By present standards, the acting appears rather florid and exaggerated. But by the norms of the time, most of the film’s actors do not descend into caricatures and succeed in creating believable human characters.

The success of “Moon” on the continent quickly led to an export version with English intertitles and premieres in England and the United States.

Print ads in American newspapers hailed “Moon” with such superlatives as Daring Romance! Swift Action! Breath-Taking Thrills! A Succession of Stupendous Spectaculars!

On the other hand, Britain’s Board of Film Censors objected strongly to scenes showing arrows quivering in the chests of Egyptian soldiers, as well as to too much skin exposure of the heroine’s back and excessive passion in the final kiss between the Israelite maiden and the Egyptian prince.

On the film set.

However, due to Hollywood studio rivalries and skullduggery, “Moon” was shown in a badly truncated version on American screens and had limited success, according to film historian Alan K. Rode, whose biography “Michael Curtiz: A Man for All Movies,” will be published next year by the University Press of Kentucky.

After its initial run, “Moon” apparently was never revived in America and footage of the complete film was lost for many years until a restored version was screened in Vienna in 2005.

Hilary Helstein, the executive director of The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, said she discovered the existence of “Moon” during a business trip to Austria two years ago and was immediately taken by the movie’s subject and form.

“I thought it was a unique film which, among other things, illustrated a period in cinema history when the discovery of King Tut’s tomb led to a fascination with all things Egyptian,” she said.

During the 28 years following his American arrival, Curtiz directed more than 100 feature films, frequently turning out four in one year.

His movie career was marked both by a prolific output and by the wide range of themes and moods, ranging from the melodramatic “Moon” to the stirring “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and the sentimental “White Christmas.”

Although he was nominated for Academy Awards five times as best director and his films were up six times for best picture, he scored only once, when “Casablanca” won best director and best picture Oscars in 1943.

According to contemporary accounts, Curtiz was hyper-energetic and a hard taskmaster, considered arrogant and callous by many colleagues. He was contemptuous of “lunch bums” — actors who had the temerity to take time off to eat lunch.

On the other hand, actresses like Joan Crawford, whose career Curtiz revived in “Mildred Pierce,” and Doris Day, who was discovered by Curtiz, thought of him as one of the greatest directors, Rode said.

Curtiz was most admired for his highly visual style of filmmaking, though at the cost of character development of his actors’ roles, according to critics. One surviving quote has it that when asked about this weakness, Curtiz replied, “Who cares about the character? I make it go so fast nobody notices.”

True to silent-film tradition, the May 6 screening of “Moon” during The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival will be accompanied by the noted Austrian pianist and composer Gerhard Gruber, now 61, who has composed and performed the music for some 450 silent movies during his career.

During a phone interview from his home near Linz, Austria, Gruber noted that in his music he tries to express “the motion and emotion” of a film, rather than of a particular historical era.

“My music changes with the moods of different audiences,” he said. “I prefer to compose for silent movies because there’s no director who tells you what to do.”

Gruber caught the silent-movie bug as an 11-year-old in a Catholic boarding school, where harsh routine was relieved once a week with the showing of old Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy comedies.

“That was my window to freedom that allowed me to travel to a land of fantasy,” Gruber recalled.

“The Artist” did not enchant Gruber or such American film critics as David Denby of The New Yorker and Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor. All three suggested the film had the glossy feel of a 1940s Hollywood production, rather than of a silent movie of the first two decades of the last century.

Whatever its merits, “The Artist” is just one sign that silent films have returned to the public consciousness.

Another is the continuing popularity of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, now in its 17th year. Most recently, the highlight was a revival of Abel Gance’s 1927 masterpiece “Napoleon.”

The five-and-a-half hour film (eight hours with snack and dinner breaks), accompanied by a 46-piece orchestra, attracted some 3,000 patrons, some of whom came from as far as Holland and the Czech Republic, cheering the film to the rafters.

Back in 1981, the local Shrine Auditorium screened an abbreviated four-hour cut of “Napoleon.” My then-22-year old daughter and I saw the epic and have never forgotten it.

For a considerable time, this city’s Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue was the only one of its kind in the United States, and for decades it brought back the glory days of Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino and the Keystone Kops.

After a number of ownership changes and a year-long closure, the venue reopened as the Cinefamily theater in 2006. In its reincarnation, the theater is a popular place for bar mitzvah and wedding parties but also maintains an eclectic mix of movie screenings, including occasional silent films with live music accompaniment.

Another sign of renewed interest in silent films is a five-page article in the Feb. 27 issue of The New Yorker, subtitled “Notes on a lost style of acting.”

Writer David Denby observed that “[s]ilent film is another country. They speak another language there — a language of gestures, stares, flapping mouths, halting or skittering walks, and sometimes movements and expressions of infinite intricacy and beauty.”

His article cites the reaction of the French literary critic Roland Barthes to a silent film starring Greta Garbo:

“Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philter, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced.”

“Moon of Israel” will screen May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, as part of The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, presented by The Jewish Journal. Actress Penelope Ann Miller of “The Artist” will introduce the film. For tickets and other information, call (800) 838-3006.

Pianist Gerhard Gruber will perform at the American Cinematheque screening on May 3 of “Café Electric,” starring Marlene Dietrich and commemorating her death 20 years ago. The film starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. For tickets, visit


Peres promotes Israeli moon probe

Israeli space enthusiasts are taking part in an international moon-probe competition.

President Shimon Peres cut the ribbon Thursday on Space IL, a nonprofit group that will compete for the international Google Lunar X Prize. The challenge is to become the first team to successfully launch, fly and land a robotic spacecraft on the moon. The team also must operate the spacecraft, which will carry an Israeli pennant, across the lunar surface and relay back video.

The first prize is a $30 million grant, which has has stirred dreams in Israel of mounting a manned moon mission.

“The time has come to fly Israel’s flag on the moon,” Peres said at the ceremony, which took place at the Israel Aerospace Industries campus near Tel Aviv.

Israeli mission to moon for Google contest demands appeal to local donors

Kfir Damari, Yonatan Winetraub and Yariv Bash were in Los Angeles last week in an effort to raise $10 million for the construction of a robot that they hope to send to the moon.

The three Israelis are hoping to win the Google Lunar X Prize, which will award $20 million to the first team that successfully launches a robot that lands on the moon, walks 1,500 feet and takes high-resolution photos and videos there, then transmits them back to Earth.

The Google Lunar X Prize — a partnership between the X Prize Foundation and Google — will also award $5 million to the second team to successfully complete the tasks, and $4 million will go to a team that completes other objectives, such as landing next to sites of old Apollo missions and detecting water. An additional $1 million will go to the team that “demonstrates the greatest attempts to promote diversity in the field of space exploration,” according to the contest site. Google is sponsoring the competition and providing the prize money.

Scientists from all over the world are participating in the contest and formed teams. The Israelis’ team name is named Team SpaceIL.

“Our mission in SpaceIL is to put the Israeli flag on the moon. To become the third country to ever soft land on the moon,” said Winetraub, chief technology officer of Team SpaceIL.

To win, the team must first raise the money on its own for the construction of their robots and fulfill all parts of the mission.  Ninety percent of each team’s funds must come from private contributors. The contest opened at the beginning of this year, and the objectives must be completed by 2015.

Team SpaceIL has raised approximately $1 million so far, most of it from Israeli supporters. It is the only Israeli team among the 29 participating.

If the team wins, the award money will go toward promoting youth education in science and technology in Israel. “We’re not in it for the money,” Winetraub said, “We’re in it to make a change. We’re in it to make history.”

Winetraub, 24, Damari, 28, and Bash, 30,  began working six months ago. The design for their robot — named “Sparrow” —  is complete and the three are in the midst of “building the hardware and testing it,” Winetraub said. They recently launched “an experimental rocket to test the landing sensors of the spaceship” and conducted another test involving engine pressure, he said.

They are working out of Tel Aviv University and in facilities belonging to Israeli technology companies, such as Israel Aerospace Industries, an aerospace and defense company. Approximately 80 volunteers — the majority of them Israeli — including space industry experts, researchers, educators and students, are helping with the project.

As of July 15, their last day in Los Angeles, the three had not secured any financial commitments here but had made connections that could lead to donations, Damari, chief operating officer of Team SpaceIL, said.

The Southern California-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Jumpstart, a local nonprofit dedicated to Jewish innovation, organized the team’s presentations in Los Angeles.

“We just want to be there first and take the $20 [million] prize,” Damari said. While many at the meeting wondered when SpaceIL hopes to launch, Damari declined to name specifics but remained confident, saying, “At least one day before the other teams.”

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Kids Page

Day by Day

Even though it’s summer, you can still learn a thing or two. The first thing you need to know about the Jewish calendar is that it is a lunar calendar — following the phases of the moon. That means that each month has 29 or 30 days in it. The solar calendar (that’s the one whose first month is called January) has 28, 30 or 31 days.

How many days does the lunar calendar add up to?

a) 365

b) 354

c) 356

(Here’s a hint: It is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar)

Tammuz Time

We are now in the month of Tammuz. So what does Tammuz mean?

In the book of Ezekial, we are told that women are “weeping over [the death of] Tammuz.” Apparently, Tammuz was a Babylonian god of grain and fertility who died every year when spring turned into summer.

Why did the Jews use Babylonian names for their months?

a) because they worshipped the Babylonian gods

b) because they sounded a lot like Hebrew

c) because it was convenient to just lift the names off the Babylonian calendar.

By the Silvery Moon

Here’s one last question: If the Hebrew month follows the moon from beginning to end, then what does the moon look like in the middle of the month?

a) gibbous

b) full

c) crescent