Israeli Breakthrough And The Ethics Of A 3D-Printed Heart

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

After Israeli breakthrough: The ethics of a 3D-printed heart

Within a decade, manufactured hearts could obviate the need for organ donations; ethicists highlight potential pitfalls along the way

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of a heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv on April 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Professor Tal Dvir presents a 3D print of a heart with human tissue at the University of Tel Aviv on April 15, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

At a Tel Aviv fruit and vegetable store on Monday night, shoppers suddenly stopped what they were doing to stare at a television screen overhead. The television news anchor was announcing a medical breakthrough: a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University had 3D-printed a heart using a patient’s own cells and biological material.

“The future is here,” one shopper remarked to another.

Israelis are swelling with pride at the scientific breakthrough revealed at a press conference on April 15 and in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Science. ‏Until now, scientists have been able to 3D print simple tissues without blood vessels, but the Israeli team, led by Prof. Tal Dvir of TAU’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, has printed an entire heart including cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers.

The grape-size heart shown at Tel Aviv University does not work yet. It needs to be matured in a bioreactor, where electrical and mechanical signals will coax the cells into contracting synchronously, a process that will take about a month. Researchers also need to figure out how to generate more and bigger cells so that they eventually can 3D print a human-size heart, which contains billions of cells. They also have yet to transplant a heart into animals which will eventually be followed by clinical trials on humans.

This breakthrough, Dvir estimated, is likely to lead 3D-printed human hearts in hospitals within a decade.

But not everybody is gung-ho about the heart breakthrough, citing ethical implications — like whether it will widen the gap between rich and poor, and whether superhuman hearts or other mutations can also be manufactured.

Robby Berman, director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society, told The Times of Israel he had mixed feelings about the Tel Aviv University announcement, mostly because people might think they no longer need to donate organs.

“The artificial heart is good in that it shows we are progressing, that one day we will be creating organs to save lives,” said Berman.

Robby Berman (Courtesy)

But Berman pointed out that only 16 percent of Israelis have signed organ donor cards (compared to 50% in the United States) and that while the Tel Aviv University breakthrough may one day ameliorate Israel’s organ shortage, that day is a long way off.

“ I hope this doesn’t send the untrue message that we are just a few years away from artificial organs, because we are not. People still need to have the conversation with their families and let everyone know — family and friends — that they want to be an organ donor.”

Dr. Rabbi Ira Bedzow, director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College, told The Times of Israel that whenever there is a new medical discovery, both those who view its potential as utopian and those who fear its unintended consequences are failing to grasp the complexity of the situation.

“My assumption is that if this works it is going to be life-saving,” Bedzow said. “What it’s going to end up doing is addressing the issue of organ shortages, and it’ll also be easier for the patients because the patients won’t have to worry about organ rejection, or Graft Versus Host disease, or taking immunosuppressants, because the cells the organ is made of are going to be from their own body.”

However, Bedzow said there are potential pitfalls involved with categorizing the organs as body parts or medical devices. If they are organs, they can’t be bought and sold and no one owns them, according to the law in most countries. This would probably keep the cost of such organs low and prevent other abuses.

This photo taken on April 15, 2019 at the University of Tel Aviv shows a 3D print of a heart with human tissue. (Jack Guez/AFP)

But if they are categorized as medical devices, they can be patented and the owner of the organs could conceivably charge a lot of money for his product, rendering it unaffordable to many unless covered by insurance.

Another related question is whether a patient will sell the rights to her genetic material to the company printing the heart. Would the company then be able to create more hearts using her cells or use her cells for other purposes? In the United States, for instance, a person’s genetic material is owned by them and a research or medical facility must get their consent if they want to use it in any way, he said.

Bedzow said the problem of organs being considered medical devices is doubly problematic because the medical devices industry itself has been a subject of controversy.

A November 2018 series of exposes by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists revealed how “health authorities across the globe have failed to protect millions of patients from poorly tested implants that can puncture organs, deliver errant shocks to the heart, rot bones and poison blood, spew overdoses of opioids and cause other needless harm.”

Ira Bedzow (Courtesy)

In March, the Department of Homeland Security warned that certain heart implants were hackable from a short distance.

“There is a rush to innovation that sometimes has had very bad consequences for patients,” said Bedzow. “It’s one of the problems that we have of looking at helping patients as a public good but then privatizing a lot of these markets where players seek financial gain.”

Bedzow said that people creating medical devices need to “recognize their mission as much as their margin” and that medicine should be a public good and not merely a good or service bought and sold in a market like potato chips and clothing.

Superhuman hearts

As for whether customizable 3D-printed organs could lead to a community of large-hearted superhumans, Bedzow said there was little reason to worry.

If a doctor put a “superheart” into someone’s body, it wouldn’t make a huge difference to their overall health and longevity because it has to work within the rest of the person’s cardiopulmonary systems.

If a doctor were to hypothetically replace all of a person’s major organs with 3D-printed ones it might add another 20 years to their life, Bedzow said. “I’d be more worried about genetic engineering than I would about organ printing. Genetic engineering is going to potentially change the entire person’s genetic code and that of their descendants as well,” he said.

He added that fears of medical innovations leading to unnatural physical enhancements of a new class of humans with superior health and abilities were nothing new.

This photo taken on April 15, 2019, at the University of Tel Aviv shows a 3D print of heart with human tissue. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

“The choices made by biotechnologists setting out to create a 3D-printed heart could possibly lead to research and technology that could serve a eugenic function. but that’s always been the case. Think about when glasses were invented. What if people said, ‘oh my gosh now we’re going to have a class of people who can see better.”

“It’s not the medical technology itself that has that moral risk,” he said. “It’s the people who have that moral risk.”

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World Bank Warns Of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

World Bank Warns of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

Thursday, 18 April, 2019 – 09:15
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The World Bank said that the Palestinian economy is now facing a severe shock in regard of public finances as a result of Israel’s approach over tax revenues, calling for an urgent resolution of the crisis before it deepens.

This came in a report that the World Bank has prepared on Wednesday and is due to be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its next meeting in Brussels on 30 April.

The report quoted Anna Bjerde, World Bank Acting Country Director for West Bank and Gaza and Director of Strategy and Operations for the Middle East and North Africa Region, as saying: “The economy, which in 2018 saw no real growth, is now facing a severe fiscal shock because of the standoff over clearance revenue transfers.”

Bjerde stressed that “Urgent resolution is needed to prevent further deterioration of economic activity and living standards. Clearance revenues are a major source of budgetary income and the ongoing standoff is felt by all segments of the population in what is already a weak economy.”

In February, Israel decided to deduct around $10 million a month from the revenues — the sum the PA paid families of prisoners or prisoners themselves serving time in Israeli jails — prompting the Palestinians to refuse any funds at all.

“Against a background of declining aid flows, the recent standoff stemmed from Israel’s unilateral deduction of US$138 million from the PA’s clearance revenues in 2019 to offset estimated payouts to Palestinian martyrs and prisoners’ families,” the report noted.

According to the World Bank, “the clearance revenues, collected by Israel and transferred to the PA monthly, amount to 65 per cent of the PA’s total revenues. In response, the PA rejected the diminished transfers and was forced to cut the wage bill by 30 per cent, reduce expenditures in social assistance, and borrow more from local banks. If not resolved, the standoff will increase the financing gap from US$400 million in 2018 to over US $1 billion in 2019.”

“The dual-use goods system in its current application limits economic diversification and sustainable growth in the Palestinian territories. A revamp of the application of the restrictions on dual-use goods is critically needed,” added Bjerde.

The report stressed that “The Palestinian economy has witnessed low growth rates that are not able to keep up with the growth in population, resulting in an increase in unemployment and deteriorating living conditions. The absence of growth in the past year is mainly attributed to the steep deterioration in Gaza, where more than half of the population is unemployed and economic activities contracted by 7 per cent in 2018—the deepest economic downturn Gaza has witnessed that is not a result of a conflict. However, growth in the West Bank has also slowed below its recent trends.”

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

Move comes 3 weeks after Trump recognizes Israeli sovereignty over Heights; Mideast envoy Greenblatt tweets picture of the map that also refers to West Bank as Israeli-occupied

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

The US has for the first time published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday, saying: “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system.”

The map shows the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria as a permanent border, whereas the border with Lebanon continues to be demarcated as the 1949 armistice line.

The map also notes that the West Bank is Israeli-occupied, with its final status to be determined in peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security tour in the Golan Heights, near Israel’s northern border with Syria, on April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And it notes that while the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, it does not take a position on the boundaries of the holy city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights

2,008 people are talking about this

However, while the map was updated, text attached to the Israel entry in the latest CIA world factbook, which included the map, continued to call East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied.”

Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sparked widespread international condemnation. The announcement in late March was a major shift in American policy and gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a needed political boost ahead of April elections.

US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. Second from right is Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and at right is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and in 1981 effectively annexed the area, in a move never recognized by the rest of international community, which considers the Golan Heights to be occupied Syrian territory.

The map was published with the US indicating it may also be on board with Israel annexing West Bank settlements.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan.

His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In interviews days before the elections, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

On Tuesday, a coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements.

The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation.

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(Scriptural Influenced Poem) Zechariah And The Lord’s Promise

Zechariah And The Lord’s Promise 

 

Soldiers awaken your blade against My enemies

Cut off the strength of he who dares to shun Me

Strike their Shepherd and his Demons will flee

I will turn My hand against those who curse Me

 

I will spread their blood upon the whole land

Two of three will die at My will saith the Lord

Those remaining I shall test them as with pure gold

Can a beast be refined into a man then into a Saint

 

Those who choose Me I will refine and test their purity

The Faithful will follow Me and will bare My Holy Name

I will answer those who through faith choose to follow Me

The Saints will follow after Me and I will be their G-d

Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

Monday, 15 April, 2019 – 08:45
A Palestinian laborer stands on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, on November 21, 2010. Baz Ratner/Reuters
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that all forms of settlement on Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 were illegal, in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy.

His comments came in response to recent statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would not hurt the US ‘deal of the century.’

“These statements are unacceptable and irresponsible,” Abu Rudaineh said. “They contravene international law and provoke the Palestinian people, who will remain steadfast in their legitimate rights, foremost of which is Jerusalem and its holy sites, and its right to freedom, independence and the establishment of an independent state on all its national soil.”

He stressed that such rhetoric would only lead to more tension in the region and the world, reiterating the Palestinian people’s rejection of the ‘deal of the century.’

“Those who believe the deal will pass are mistaken,” the Palestinian spokesman emphasized.

In a televised interview with CNN last week, Pompeo said Netanyahu’s comments on annexing some Israeli settlements in the West Bank “don’t harm the United States’ peace plan.”

He went on to say: “I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used.”

“We have had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Woman was removed from ultra-Orthodox polling station so top rabbi could vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Woman was removed from ultra-Orthodox polling station so top rabbi could vote

Followers of Ger Hassidic dynasty’s leader reportedly called Likud lawmakers to intervene after female polling officer refused to leave her post in Bnei Brak

A polling station in the city of Bnei Brak, Israel on April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A polling station in the city of Bnei Brak, Israel on April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A female Likud election worker was forced out of a polling station in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak during Tuesday’s election at the request of the leader of the Ger Hassidic sect, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, according to a Friday report in Haaretz.

The woman initially refused to leave the polling station, so the rabbi’s followers contacted Likud Knesset members who arranged to have the woman removed, the report said.

The Likud lawmakers sent a male party official to the polling station to replace the woman “while she took a lunch break,” during which time the rabbi cast his ballot.

Sources told Haaretz that when followers of the rabbi noticed the female Likud member at the polling station, they knew it was “going to be an issue right from the beginning.”

Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter of the Gur Hasidic Dynasty attends a rally of United Torah Judaism party, ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, April 8, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“They did almost everything to try to convince her to leave, including offering her money,” the source said.

One of Alter’s followers told Haaretz on Friday that the rabbi did not intend to insult the woman, but saw her presence at the polling station as a “matter of respectability.”

“The Rabbi does not receive women or look at them,” he said.” It’s just the same as honoring a special request for a prime minister or president.”

Alter is the Admor, or head, of the Ger Hasidic movement and the powerful patron of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman from the United Torah Judaism party.

The head of the Likud polling committee Yaakov Vidar downplayed the report, saying the party made “manpower changes as needed” during the busy election day.

Ultra-Orthodox communities frequently try and impose a separation between men and women. The two genders sit separately at synagogues and weddings, and women and men who are not relatives refrain from physical contact.

There have also been attempts to enforce gender segregation on public buses, but the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled it illegal, and also frequent instances where ultra-Orthodox men have refused to sit next to women on planes.

It’s not just in person, most of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox media — which includes four daily newspapers, two main weeklies and two main websites — refuse to show images of women, claiming it would be a violation of modesty.

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Netanyahu’s election win confirmed; New Right misses out

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

JUDGE IN CHARGE: TALLY NOT OFFICIAL UNTIL GIVEN TO PRESIDENT

With all votes counted, Netanyahu’s election win confirmed; New Right misses out

After full day of rechecking, Likud gains a seat to outscore Gantz’s Blue and White 36-35, United Torah Judaism loses a seat; Netanyahu’s path to majority coalition clear

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for Israel's general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confirmed as the big winner of Israel’s general elections on Thursday night, when the Central Elections Committee published the completed tallies of Tuesday’s election, a full 60 hours after the polling stations closed.

The delay was caused by extra time spent Thursday checking and rechecking the “extra” votes cast by soldiers, diplomats and other absentees, which led to adjustments to the tentative results that had been issued early Wednesday. Even when releasing these ostensibly final tallies, however, the Supreme Court justice overseeing the elections said they were not official, and reserved the right to amend them before they are formally handed to the president on April 17.

With all of the votes counted, checked and rechecked, Netanyahu’s Likud party edged past its rival Blue and White party with 26.45 percent of the vote to win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, gaining one more seat in the adjusted final tally. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party dropped a seat, from Wednesday’s tentative eight to seven. Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White faction was confirmed at 35 seats, 26.11% of ballots.

Blue and White had formally conceded the election on Wednesday.

Final results in 2019 elections36363535887766665555444444000000LikudBlue and WhiteShasUTJHadash-Ta’alLaborYisrael BeytenuURWPMeretzKulanuRa’am-BaladNew RightZehutGesher0510152025303540

The bloc of Likud and its ultra-Orthodox and right-wing allies finished with 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center, left and Arab parties, giving Netanyahu a clear path for building a majority coalition.

Final blocs after 2019 elections65655555RightCenter-left + Arab

The results also confirmed that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party narrowly failed to garner enough support to win any seats, ending up with 3.22% of the votes cast nationwide; the minimum threshold for Knesset representation is 3.25%. New Right had pinned its hopes on the soldiers’ votes elevating it into the Knesset for the minimum four seats, and sources in the party challenged the count during Thursday when it emerged that it had fallen short.

New Right said after the completed tallies were released at midnight that it was “not giving up” and was not convinced that the published totals were accurate. UTJ said it would appeal against the results.

On the right, Aryeh Deri’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party wound up as the third-largest Knesset faction with eight seats, followed by UTJ with its seven, the Union of Right-Wing parties won five, Yisrael Beytenu won five, and Kulanu won four.

On the other side of the spectrum, Arab party Hadash-Ta’al won six seats, the Labor party crashed to a record low of six, Meretz won four seats, and the second Arab party, Ra’am-Balad, also won four.

Likud’s 36 seats was the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.

Final results of the 2019 national election on the Central Elections Committee website show the New Right, circled in yellow, falling short of the 3.25% threshold to enter the Knesset, April 11, 2019. (Screenshot/Central Elections Committee)

The vote count was plagued by controversy.

The Central Elections Committee’s website on Thursday morning erroneously stated that New Right had crossed the electoral threshold, before officials clarified that the website was inaccurate. The inaccurate figure remained on the site all day, however, until it was finally amended shortly before the completed figures were released at midnight.

Screenshot from the Central Elections Committee website showing the New Right party with 3.26% of the vote on Thursday late morning, April 11, 2019. The Committee said this information was erroneous and that the New Right had actually won only 3.22% of the vote. It said the site was not showing the correct number of total votes counted, and was thus displaying inaccurate figures for all parties.

United Torah Judaism and the New Right late Thursday had called for a delay in the publication of the election results. The New Right said the party had received over 1,000 complaints about ballot irregularities, while UTJ said mistakes had been recorded at five polling stations in ultra-Orthodox areas.

Additionally, Meretz accused United Torah Judaism of interfering in the count on Thursday to try to steal a seat. Meretz, according to Thursday night’s tally, ended up only a few hundred votes short of winning a fifth seat.

Snafus on the official website also included displayed turnout rates of over 100 percent in some areas.

Justice Hanan Melcer, head of the Central Elections Committee, acknowledged that erroneous data had been registered on the committee’s computers, leading to a discrepancy between official results and those posted to the official website, but said all such issues had now been resolved.

Nonetheless, when announcing the completed results, Melcer said they were still subject to possible change before they are submitted to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, April 17.

“We retain the right,” he said in a letter to the representatives of the Knesset slates that ran in the elections, “to examine the results using additional means at the committee’s disposal… so that they are still subject to changes and adjustments.”

Melcer said he rejected the last-minute appeal by the New Right and United Torah Judaism parties to hold off on publishing the results, in part because they are not fully official until they are presented to the president and thus in principle subject to change.

Justice Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset, attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, April 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He noted that 4,335,320 Israelis voted, from among 6,335,387 who were eligible (68.4 percent), and that 30,756 votes were disqualified.

Speaking to journalists at the Knesset earlier, Melcer stressed there was “no fault or issue” in tallying the votes.

Melcer downplayed the computer glitches at a press conference. He said the errors on the site were the result of a software problem that prevented the site from displaying the vote tallies in real time, and stressed the erroneous data displayed on the website was not the result of a cyberattack. (Ahead of the elections, the Shin Bet security agency had warned that a foreign power would seek to meddle in the elections.)

In a statement, the committee said: “Three glitches were found in the data transfer. The problem is not with the count but with entering figures into the system. Some of the figures were recorded by the system and some were not.”

On Thursday night, New Right party put out a statement quoting Justice Melcer and stating that “the results as they were published are not final.”

“We would expect the media to show a bit more gravitas in its reports,” the party said. “As we have said, we are not giving up… We will accept the voter’s decision, but will not rest until we find out what that decision truly is.”

United Torah Judaism said it would appeal the results.

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Buzz Aldrin to ‘inspiring’ Beresheet team ‘Never lose hope’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL, (TOI)

 

Buzz Aldrin to ‘inspiring’ Beresheet team after moon crash: ‘Never lose hope’

Second man to walk on moon sends condolences to Israelis; LunarX to award SpaceIL a $1m prize for achievements despite vehicle crashing into lunar surface during landing attempt

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

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

Former astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin on Thursday tweeted his condolences to the team behind the Beresheet spacecraft which crashed into the moon’s surface during its landing attempt on Thursday evening, saying the project was “inspiring.”

“Condolences to the Beresheet lander @TeamSpaceIL for what almost was! Communications were lost with the spacecraft just 150 meters (!!!) above the surface, and it couldn’t quite stick the landing. Never lose hope – your hard work, team work, and innovation is inspiring to all!” tweeted Aldrin, who was a member of the US Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969.

Israel could still claim the title of seventh country to make lunar orbit, and the fourth country to reach the lunar surface, though unfortunately not in one piece.

“As far as we can see, we were very close to the moon,” operation control director Alex Friedman said to engineers in the SpaceIL control room in Yehud, east of Tel Aviv, after communication with the spacecraft went down. “We are on the moon, but not in the way that we wanted to be.”

In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, Buzz Aldrin, former NASA Astronaut and Apollo 11 Pilot, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing on human exploration goals and commercial space competitiveness. (AP/Susan Walsh)

The project launched as Israel’s entry into the Google LunarX challenge for non governmental groups to land a spacecraft on the moon. Google ended the contest in 2018 with no winners, but the Israeli team decided to continue its efforts privately.

LunarX announced Friday that it would award the Israeli team a $1 million moonshot XPrize in honor of their achievements.

“We’re extraordinarily proud they made it this far,” said Peter Diamandis, XPrize founder.

The head of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, said he regretted the mission didn’t succeed, but said he had “no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

President Reuven Rivlin hosted dozens of youngsters at his official residence, one of several celebrations scheduled across the country.

“We are full of admiration for the wonderful people who brought the spacecraft to the moon,” Rivlin said. “True, not as we had hoped, but we will succeed eventually.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaks to the crowd after the Beresheet spacecraft attempted to land on the moon, Jerusalem, April 11, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The spacecraft successfully initiated the landing sequence, but a few kilometers above the moon’s surface the main engine failed, meaning the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to cushion its landing.

“Write this down: In three years we will get another spacecraft on the moon, and this one will land in one piece,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try again. We’ll try again, and next time we’ll just try it more gently.”

Phil Larson of the University of Colorado, who was a space adviser in the Obama White House, said the Israeli effort underlines that “space is still extremely hard, and landing human-made objects on other worlds is an utmost challenge.”

But, he added, “While it failed to land successfully, overall it was a path-breaking and innovative project.”

The Beresheet spacecraft pictured before its launch. (Courtesy/Israel Aerospace Industry)

The spacecraft was budgeted at $100 million (NIS 370 million), a fraction of the cost of vehicles launched to the moon by major powers US, Russia and China in the past. It was a joint venture between private companies SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including South African billionaire Morris Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.

“Space is hard,” said Ehud Hayun, a space systems engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries. “I’m not crushed, I’m disappointed, but I’m very proud of what we achieved. We had a lot of success along the way, until the hard landing. We knew it was a risky mission, and the risk we were taking to build it cheap and fast. But we tried.”

Beresheet photographs the dark side of the moon on April 10, 2019 from a height of 2500 km. (courtesy Beresheet engineers)

SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash said it would take about two or three years to get another prototype ready for a moon landing. Netanyahu asked philanthropist Kahn to fund it again, though Kahn expressed hope that a second run would cost a little less.

Opher Doron, the general manager of the Space Division at Israel Aerospace Industries, said engineers were still studying the problem that led to the crash. Current thinking is that there was a failure with one of the telemetry (altitude) measurement units, which caused a chain of events culminating in the main engine cutting out about 10 kilometers (6 miles) above the moon’s surface. Without the main engine, the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to make a gentle landing, rather crashing onto the surface.

The three SpaceIL co-founders, who initially decided to participate in the GoogleX Lunar Prize contest some eight years ago, said they would continue their mission of space education and encouraging children to enter science fields.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with engineers and SpaceIL founders in the Yehud control room, vowed to try again for the moon after the Beresheet spacecraft crashed on April 11, 2019. (courtesy)

“I want to turn to kids that might be watching us,” Yonatan Winetraub said in a press conference after the crash. “We didn’t reach the moon in one piece. That sucks. However, engineering and science are hard. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time, sometimes it doesn’t work the second or third time. But it will work.”

“I want to encourage you to continue studying these things so you can one day reach the moon, and the stars,” he added.

“This is not what we were hoping for, but I think in the last few years we made history,” said Kfir Damari.

“We got Israel to places we couldn’t have imagined before. It was a long journey. We got Israel to the moon, together, this whole team. Now it’s the kids’ job to continue to build future spacecraft to reach the moon.”

“This is what happens, this is space,” said Morris Kahn. “Space has its dangers, it’s a frontier that’s very difficult. We accepted the challenge. I’m glad we did it. We chose to dream, we chose to do, and we were not afraid.”

“We are still the seventh country to get to the moon,” said Winetraub. “And that is still pretty incredible.”

Agencies contributed to this report

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Israel: Have You Looked At The Sky Today?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Recently, someone in my neighborhood in Tel Aviv has been spray-painting the question, “Have you looked at the sky today?” on walls of buildings and at the dog park and local train station. Have you looked at the sky today? It’s a reminder to take our eyes off the phone in our hands, and look up, for a moment, to see what’s going on around us.

Over the past two months, I found myself lifting my eyes to the sky more and more, as I followed the trajectory of Beresheet’s elliptical path to the moon.

Over the same two months, as Israel has been wrapped in a divisive election and an almost-war in Gaza, a group of passionate engineers has tried to shift the entire country’s gaze towards the sky, to see the universe beyond the borders of our country and our planet.

As we and the world watched on Thursday night, holding our collective breath in anticipation for Israel to become the fourth country to land on the moon, Beresheet smashed into the lunar surface, scattering into thousands of pieces.

ToI’s Melanie Lidman

The landing sequence started so perfectly, with a large cheer going up as the spacecraft passed the point of no return, meaning the automatic landing was engaged, and there was no turning back. But then communication with the spacecraft started going in and out.

Things got tense, but it was happening so quickly that the evening’s emcees, Ido Antebby of SpaceIL and Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries, barely had a chance to explain what was going on.

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

The main engine stopped working, and then miraculously, started working again. Some people in the audience clapped, but Ehud Hayun, a space systems engineer at IAI sitting next to me, already knew it was over. The spacecraft was too close to the surface to properly slow its descent and drop gently to the ground.

“There is a concern that we haven’t landed in the best possible way,” Alex Friedman, the systems engineer manager overseeing the control room observed dryly at 10:24 p.m.

The engineers, stoic as always, barely registered emotion, as it became clear that their project, which some had worked on for upwards of eight years, had smashed into the surface on which it had been supposed to settle.

SpaceX’s Nusantara Satu Mission, bearing an Israeli moon lander, takes off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on February 22, 2019 (screenshot: YouTube)

Have you looked at the sky today? Have you looked at the moon?

Somewhere, up there, are the remains of a crazy idea that was hatched by three friends at a bar in Holon, that somehow, along the way, garnered $100 million in donations, harnessed a team of dozens of engineers, and captured the attention of Israel and the world.

What does it mean to fail? What does it mean to have the courage, the audacity, to stand up and say, why not? Why not try and get to the moon?

Beresheet engineers released this photo on April 1 of the Arabian peninsula at a height of 16,000 kilometers, photographed from the spacecraft’s external cameras. (courtesy Beresheet)

Over the past two months, as I followed every hiccup and maneuver and selfie of the spacecraft, I found myself not just immersed in the day-to day news of this country, but looking up at the sky and remembering that this country is a small dot on a tiny planet amidst an entire universe.

It’s the smallness I used to feel devouring my father’s battered copies of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction: how beautiful it is to dream about what can exist beyond our horizons. How crucial it is to remember how small and unimportant we are. How beautiful to know that there is more out there than what we can see.

A picture taken by the Beresheet spacecraft of the moon’s surface with the Earth in the background on April 5, 2019. (courtesy Beresheet)

More than a million students in Israel spent class time learning about Beresheet, either through presentations from SpaceIL’s army of educators (the non-profit organization employs more educators than engineers), or the educational kits available for free on SpaceIL’s website. Even writing articles, I learned so much more about space and physics than I ever thought I’d know.

At some point, in between a conversation about the perilune (closest point of the elliptical orbit around the moon) and the apilune (farthest point of the elliptical orbit around the moon), and trying to clarify between geostationary and geosynchronous orbits, I realized that despite my defiant insistence to the contrary, my 10th grade geometry teacher Mrs. Haupt was right. One day, I would need to know basic geometry.

The last shot Beresheet sent of landing before crashing onto the moon’s surface. (Youtube screenshot)

My neighbor, Yisrael, doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. He can’t get over the price tag: $100 million! What about all the hungry people in Israel? he asks. Never mind that Beresheet cost a fraction of the estimated $1.5 billion for each Apollo mission. Why not take that money and build a hospital or something more practical? Yisrael has spent his entire life working with his hands, building things, creating concrete objects you can touch.

A child’s drawing about space included in the time capsule that has been inserted into the Beresheet spacecraft (Courtesy)

I tried to explain to Yisrael just why I have loved writing about this little craft hurtling through space, learning about the intricacies of elliptical orbits and the pull of lunar gravity and the growing problem of space trash.

But I also found myself struggling to find the words. Can you put a monetary value on inspiration? Is it cost-effective to convince a young girl that she can be a space engineer when she grows up? At the end, I could only say to Yisrael, can you imagine a more beautiful thing than a group of friends believing that they can send something to the moon? Can you put a price tag on beauty?

In the moments after Friedman’s announcement, after the screen that was showing the position of the spacecraft reverted to the background of someone’s desktop computer, it didn’t feel real that Beresheet had crashed.

It’s strange to lose something you’ve never touched.

Beresheet photographs the dark side of the moon on April 10, 2019 from a height of 2500 km. (courtesy Beresheet engineers)

What does it mean to fail? Space is hard, Hayun said to me, with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders, just moments after the spacecraft crashed. Cameras were already in his face, waiting to ask how he felt, what it was like to lose the project he had worked so hard to build. Space is hard.

Perhaps the lesson we should take from Beresheet is not the fact that it failed, but the fact that we tried at all. That for a moment, we widened our horizons beyond our tiny lives, expanding the diameter of our world to a point 400,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) away, joining with millions of people to follow the trajectory of a crazy dream.

Have you looked at the sky today?

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Brazil’s President Tells U.N. That Brazil Now Follows The Bible

( BRAZIL 24/7 )