Israeli Breakthrough: 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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Israel: The People Have Spoken. They Want To Live In Netanyahu’s Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel

Israelis were not under-informed or unfairly swayed. They knew what they’d get with a 5th term of Netanyahu. The result was the highest vote ever for right & ultra-Orthodox parties

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

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

The people have spoken. And a week after the elections, with the president now in the midst of consultations with our newly elected politicians ahead of the formation of our next government, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the people actually said.

They knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, unless he could persuade the attorney general of his innocence. They knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that, if re elected, he might try to use existing or new legislation to avoid being prosecuted, and would likely seek to stay on as prime minister even if he were to be prosecuted. And that, if reelected, he would make the case that the public had given him a mandate to offset the state prosecutors’ recommendations that he be put on trial.

They knew. And 26.45% of the voting Israeli public chose Likud — a vast number, by Israeli standards, 1,139,079 out of the 4,306,520 legitimate ballots cast nationwide.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff — an unprecedented assemblage of security expertise, in a country where security concerns always figure at the very top of voting considerations. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists. Even though it included Netanyahu’s own former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose public positions are more hawkish than those of Netanyahu, and even though Netanyahu in 2013 extended Gantz’s term as IDF chief by an additional year in the most overt illustration possible of the confidence he then had in Gantz’s security leadership capabilities.

Members of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz (second left), Moshe Yaalon (right), Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 10, 2019, a day after the elections. (Flash90)

They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable. They watched Netanyahu attempt to make political capital out of a bizarre saga involving the reported Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone — a saga in which Gantz and his colleagues did not provide a clear-cut explanation of what had gone on. They watched Gantz veer between an attempted statesmanlike, high-ground approach to beating Netanyahu and a lower-ground trading of insults and accusations.

They watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich declare he’d set his heart on becoming minister of education. They watched the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked vow to curb the power of the Supreme Court if she continued as justice minister.

They watched. And they made their choice. Very few voters from the right of the political spectrum threw their support behind Gantz and the other generals. While Blue and White also topped the million-vote count — 1,124,805 — much of its support came from the center and the now decimated Labor, and that wasn’t enough to thwart Netanyahu’s fifth election victory.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They recognized other likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service.

Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.

The people have spoken.

Residents of the Gaza envelope communities of southern Israel have for years complained about Netanyahu’s policies in dealing with Hamas. They have protested that the government has turned them into rocket fodder. Sderot, the most rocket-battered city of all, voted 43.52% for Netanyahu’s Likud. (The next most popular party was Yisrael Beytenu at 10.14%.) To the east of Gaza, Netivot voted 32.46% Likud (second only to 33.35% Shas.) Ashkelon, to the north, voted 42.61% Likud (followed by Blue and White at 15.62%). By contrast, kibbutzim and moshavim in the Gaza periphery area generally voted overwhelmingly for Blue and White.

The people have spoken.

Early on election day, reports started circulating about Likud-paid activists bringing hidden cameras into polling stations in Arab areas. Some of those involved have since acknowledged that they were indeed acting on behalf of Likud; a PR agency has claimed responsibility, saying it was hired by Likud; the Likud party’s lawyer, on the day, claimed the operation was open and legal, and necessary to ensure the “integrity” of the vote in districts ostensibly prone to voter fraud; Netanyahu himself championed the use of public cameras for the same purpose. (Needless to say, the Central Elections Committee has its own, nonpartisan procedures for preventing election fraud.) In fact, ruled the judge overseeing the elections, the deployment of the cameras was illicit; the equipment was ordered removed.

Israel’s voters watched and read about all these developments in real time.

Some analysts have suggested that the camera gambit depressed Arab turnout — it’s not comfortable showing up to do your democratic duty, as members of a minority that was traduced by the prime minister on the previous election day, when you hear on the news that you’re going to be filmed in the process by his supporters. Arab turnout does appear to have been down last week (an estimated 52%) as compared to 2015 (an estimated 63.7%). And while the Joint (Arab) List won 13 seats in the last Knesset, its constituent parties, now running in two separate lists, managed only 10 this time.

But if the camera ploy worked to Netanyahu’s advantage, possibly costing his political rivals a seat or three, and maybe boosting support for a Likud seen to be taking on the Arabs, there was a more dramatic arithmetical factor on the right-hand side of the spectrum that worked against him. Between Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right (138,491 votes, or 3.22% of the national total) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut (117,670 votes; 2.73% of the national total), a staggering 6% of right-wing votes went down the drain — a potential six or seven more Knesset seats for a Netanyahu-led coalition. And yet Netanyahu still has a clear, if complex, path (involving reconciling the ultra-Orthodox parties with the fiercely secular Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu) to a 65-strong coalition.

Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud; Shas; UTJ; Yisrael Beytenu; United Right-Wing Parties; Kulanu; The New Right; Zehut, and Gesher). This is the highest proportion in Israeli history. Only 34% went to centrist and left of center Zionist parties (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz).

The two ultra-Orthodox parties, it is worth noting, had repeatedly stressed in the run-up to polling day that they would only consider joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even when the polls closed and for a brief moment Gantz was claiming victory on the basis of a predictably inaccurate exit poll, UTJ rushed to say that it would go into the opposition with Netanyahu rather than partner with Gantz.

Menachem Begin, center, speaks to supporters at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 1977, as they celebrate the Likud Bloc’s election to government after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. (AP Photo)

By way of comparison, the 2015 elections saw over 56% voting for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Yachad). In 2013, the comparable figure was 48% (Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ, Otzma LeYisrael). In 2009, it was 54% (Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, National Union and Jewish Home).

Going way back to 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud first won power, the comparable proportion was about 53% — and that’s including the then-relatively centrist National Religious Party, which had partnered with Labor-led governments for the past three decades.

The people have spoken.

Were some worried by Gantz’s warnings that Netanyahu is turning Israel into Turkey — becoming our un-oustable leader, gradually marginalizing opposition, taking control of ever more of the media, bending the cops and the prosecutors and the courts to his will? Doubtless, many were. But not enough to unseat him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a voting slip for his Likud party in a video filmed at a beach in Netanya on election day, April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The people saw Gantz caught by a camera in his car, toward the end of election day, looking exhausted. They saw Netanyahu, sweating in his suit on the beach at Netanya, imploring potential supporters to get out of the sea and vote Likud.

The people saw everything, internalized what they chose to internalize, and made their decision. No nefarious forces, as far as we know, skewed these elections. The public was not under-informed; nor was it disaffected. The turnout was a healthy 67.9% (compared to 61.4% in the 2016 US presidential elections, or 66.1% in 2015’s British parliamentary elections).

The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.

Note: Figures cited in this piece for the 2019 elections are from the completed-count totals announced by the Central Elections Committee at midnight on April 11; the totals have fluctuated slightly since then, and are to be made official on April 16.

WJC Urges All Of Europe’s Governments To Ban Hitler Birthday Celebrations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The World Jewish Congress on Friday urged European governments and lawmakers to take measures against a series of planned neo-Nazi gatherings over the weekend to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

The WJC statement said group events to commemorate 130 years since the birth of the Nazi leader (on April 20, 1889) were scheduled across the continent, including a two-day conference by a fascist group in Bulgarian capital Sofia, a hiking and picnic trip in Ukraine, a rock concert in Italy, two conventions in Germany and a handful of gatherings in France.

The group invited lawmakers and other to join its social media campaign raising awareness about the recent rise of neo-Nazi movements in Europe by highlighting their connection to WWII-era Nazi groups.

The organization’s CEO, Robert Singer, made a personal appeal to Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov, asking him to do everything in his power to cancel the Bulgarian National Union’s conference scheduled to take place in Sofia on Friday and Saturday.

WJC

@WorldJewishCong

This weekend, neo-Nazis will celebrate Hitler’s birthday throughout Europe. These gatherings are a stark reminder of the past. We must do everything we can to ensure history does not repeat itself.

44 people are talking about this

Previous BNU events have drawn nationalist supporters from other European countries. In February, hundreds of supporters walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and chanting nationalist slogans to honor a WWII general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities.

The annual Lukov March came despite strong condemnation by human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies. The city mayor had banned the rally but organizers won a court order overturning the ban.

Singer said BNU’s upcoming gathering was “part and parcel with the inciting and violent nature of the annual [neo-Nazi] Lukov march and should be met with the same condemnation and denunciation.”

Last year on Hitler’s birthday, hundreds of neo-Nazis massed under heavy security in the eastern German town of Ostritz for a weekend festival. Citizens and anti-fascist activists staged spirited counterprotests in the area, vastly outnumbered concert-goers.

The festivities were organized by a member of the far-right fringe German political party NPD, which is openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic but in 2017 avoided a legal ban because of its small membership and limited influence.

Members of nationalist organizations parade with torches during a march to commemorate Bulgarian General and politician Hristo Lukov, in the centre of Sofia on February 16, 2019. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

In neighboring Poland, around 100 people attended a Hitler birthday concert in Dzierzoniow. Days later, police raided the homes of the concert organizers, arresting two and confiscating neofascist paraphernalia including flags and banners.

The public propagation of totalitarian ideologies like fascism or communism and ethnic or racial hatred is banned in Poland, a country still grappling with the memory of Nazi occupation, and carries a penalty of up to two years behind bars.

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Russia’s largest yeshiva attacked with arson and swastikas ahead of Passover

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia’s largest yeshiva attacked with arson and swastikas ahead of Passover

No one reported injured in fire at Torat Chaim in eastern Moscow, hours before 60 people gathered for traditional seder meal

A person inspects the damage from a fire set at the Torat Chaim Yeshiva on the eve of Passover, April 19, 2019 (Courtesy/Torat Chaim Yeshiva)

A person inspects the damage from a fire set at the Torat Chaim Yeshiva on the eve of Passover, April 19, 2019 (Courtesy/Torat Chaim Yeshiva)

MOSCOW, Russia — Jewish officials said Friday an arson fire was set at the largest yeshiva in Russia just ahead of the Passover meal celebration. Swastikas were also sprayed on the seminary.

No one was reported injured in the early Friday fire at the Torat Chaim school in an eastern Moscow suburb.

Olga Esaulova, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s chief rabbi, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the fire was set in a storage area for kosher meat and that swastikas were drawn at the yeshiva’s entrance.

There were about 60 students, rabbis and guests in the building at the time, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Avital Chizhik Goldschmidt

@avitalrachel

Reports from Moscow that the Torat Chaim Yeshiva was attacked last night by what seems to be neo-Nazis. Swastikas painted on the doors and the storehouse entirely burned, the yeshiva community’s precious kosher meat/food for Passover gone.

305 people are talking about this

While Russia has a long history of anti-Semitism, it has noticeably declined under Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Putin has made considerable efforts to reach out to Russian Jewish communities, both within his state’s borders and in Israel. His country’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, is a close confidante.

He has encouraged the restoration of dozens of synagogues destroyed under communism and taken a hard-line on anti-Semitism.

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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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Updated exit polls show Netanyahu headed for election victory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Updated exit polls show Netanyahu headed for election victory

Channel 12 and Channel 13 update their exit polls as the official ballots are counted.

Both networks’ revised samples now indicate Netanyahu’s Likud will win 35 seats, compared to Blue and White’s 34, and can muster a coalition majority with ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties.

The Channel 12 survey previously predicted 37 seats for Blue and White and 33 for Likud; Channel 13 had the two parties tied at 36.

Both exit polls now indicate that Shas would be the third-largest party with eight seats, followed by United Torah Judaism with 7. According to the TV stations, the New Right, Zehut and Gesher will fall under the electoral threshold.

In its breakdown of the political blocs, Channel 12 gives 63 of the 120 Knesset seats to the right, compared to 57 for the center-left, giving Netanyahu a clear path to forming a government. According to Channel 13, the right-wing bloc would receive 65 seats, compared to 55 for the center-left.

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.

Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Joined by Netanyahu, Brazilian president makes trailblazing trip to Western Wall

Braving Jerusalem rain, Bolsonaro becomes first foreign head of state to be accompanied by Israeli PM on visit to the holy site

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of  Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touch the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2019 (Menahem KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall on Monday, becoming the first foreign head of state to visit the site together with a senior Israeli official.

His unprecedented step could be seen as a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over that location in Jerusalem’s Old City, which the international community generally considers occupied Palestinian territory. The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

After Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch read a chapter from the Book of Psalms, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro approached the wall, braving the rainy Jerusalem weather.

After the Brazilian president placed a note in one of the cracks, the two leaders leaned against the ancient stones for several seconds in quiet contemplation.

After the short ceremony, they toured the Western Wall tunnels, which are located underneath the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro visits the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem’s Old City with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 1, 2019 (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

At a visitors center, the two men viewed a virtual reality recreation of the Jewish temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

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During his election campaign, and even in the weeks that followed his victory, Bolsonaro promised to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in transferring his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. But before he arrived in Israel on Sunday morning, he appeared to backtrack, indicating that he would open a trade mission in the city instead.

Meeting Netanyahu on Sunday, Bolsonaro announced the opening of a “trade, technology and innovation office” that would be “an official office of the Government of Brazil, in Jerusalem,” the prime minister said.

“I hope that this is a first step toward the opening in time of the Brazilian embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said on Sunday evening during a joint press appearance at the Prime Minister’s Residence on the capital’s Balfour Street.

“Recognizing the historic ties of Jerusalem with the Jewish identity and that the city is the political heart of the State of Israel, I announced today that Brazil will open there a Brazilian office to promote trade, investment and exchange in innovation and technology,” Bolsonaro tweeted later that night.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

Reconhecendo os vínculos históricos de Jerusalém com a identidade judaica e também que a cidade é o coração político do Estado de Israel, anunciei hoje que o Brasil abrirá lá um escritório brasileiro para promoção do comércio, investimentos e intercâmbio em inovação e tecnologia.

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So far, the US and Guatemala are the only countries to have their embassies in Jerusalem. Paraguay moved its embassy to the city last year, but has since relocated it to Tel Aviv.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă on March 24 announced that her country would move its embassy to Jerusalem, but an actual relocation seems unlikely because President Klaus Iohannis — who is staunchly opposed to the move — has the last word on the matter.

On the same day, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández announced his intention to “immediately” open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem that would “extend our embassy to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem.”

In recent weeks, several countries have opened or announced plans to open trade or cultural centers in the capital, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

The international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and so visiting foreign dignitaries generally refrain from going there in the company of Israeli officials.

Those who do want to tour the holy site usually do so in a private capacity, though in recent months an increasing number of foreign leaders have defied standard protocol and allowed Israeli diplomats to join them at the wall.

On March 20, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first American top diplomat to visit the site together with an Israeli prime minister, underlining the recent trend.

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)
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