The Jerusalem of Science and Culture


Barbara Pfeffer Billauer


1616-17 painting by Peter Paul Rubens, showing the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek as recounted in the Genesis 14.

On October 12, 2016, the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization, commonly known as UNESCO, adopted a resolution that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount by referring to in the resolution exclusively by its Arabic name. As describe by the UK Guardian, (and echoed by many other newspapers including the Boston Globe): “ UNESCO’s tendentious semantics play into an ongoing propaganda campaign by the Palestinian Authority to “de-Judaize” the identity of Jerusalem, the foremost Jewish city on earth. UNESCO erred by allowing itself to be dragged into this controversy.”

It is no surprise that the resolution passed: The resolution, proposed by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan passed with 24 of the 56 member governing council voting for it, six against and  26 abstensions. Of the 24 who favored the motion, at least 9 (more than a third) have heavily Muslim ties and only one little country is Jewish.

What is surprising, however, is that UNESCO would violate its own charter and raison d’etre to wade into the political fray, that it would allow itself to be hijacked by the current prevalence of Arab states on its governing board to self-immolate — and that it that it deliberately fostered international dissention by enacting a resolution in direct contravention of one of its enumerated goals. What is disappointing is that UNESCO would abandon its designated mission of impartiality and wade into political turf. And what is disappointing is the rather impoverished and pedantic and pedestrian Israeli response.

As its name implies, UNESCO is charged with employing scientific, cultural and educational initiatives as a means to bridge divides, “to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration” in these areas — rather than create them. Specifically, it is charged with (inter alia) the promotion of cultural diversity, translations of world literature, international cooperation agreements to secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites)

Immediately after the vote, Israel’s ambassador to Unesco criticized the committee’s stance, predictably arguing that : “You have just adopted a [resolution] against historical truth and one that stands in complete and utter contradiction to all values,” without further amplification. In response, Palestinian officials insisted that because the resolution refers to issues at Muslim places of worship it justified the language.

It must be noted that the Palestinian response reflects the current state of affairs and ignores the historical or cultural associations of the site. It reflects, in essence, a snapshot in time, ignorant or irreverent of the past or possible future. Language itself can be polarizing –as occurred here. The fact that the locus under discussion houses Muslim places of worship is part of the conundrum. Stating that this fact justifies use of the language is of course a boot-strap argument. Many Jews (and Christians) would like to see the Temple Mount as available to them as a prayer site, as in fact was the situation centuries ago.  As the The Economist explains in The trouble at Temple MountNov 17th 2016: by A.L.G. “Ultimately the right to pray implies a right of ownership.” But perhaps The Economist got it wrong; perhaps the right of ownership implies the right to pray – and it is for this reason the Palestinians are so intent on creating the aura of ownership – to guarantee their right to prayer at their third holiest site  – denying Jewish worshippers the right to pray at their holiest of sites.

Nevertheless, what is truly troubling is that the Scientific and Cultural legs of the organization were amputated. When deciding how to refer to the site – would it not have been important to see how scientists and cultural icons referred to and regard the site? Before a country casts a vote, should they not have enquired how their own luminaries and heroes saw the site- from a historical vantage point? In that designating “world heritage sites” are part of the organizations mandate – isn’t the world heritage of the Temple Mount a consideration to be used in constructing the language of the resolution?

So what, indeed, would the great scientists and cultural icons have said?

Of course Albert Einstein (invited to be the President of Israel and instrumental in the founding of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to which he willed his literary assets) and Aaron Aaronsohn (the discoverer of primordial wheat) would have been shocked. Both were avowed Zionists, and both were instrumental in the founding of the Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. But of course, both Einstein and Aaronsohn were Jewish, and hence must have been biased and their sentiments discounted, right? (An anti-Semitic comment, perhaps, but then again, isn’t anti-Semitism is the root of the issue)?

So let’s look at some “unbiased” cultural and scientific icons as the figured through history, and determine their views of the Temple Mount. Let us recall that the “liturgy” “lore” and tenets of Freemasonry rest in large measure on veneration of Solomon’s Temple on the Temple Mount –not any Arabic name thereof. Let us examine see has who pledged allegiance to Freemasonry and embraced its tenets –venerating the notion of Solomon’s Temple being built on the Temple Mount.  In fact, many countries who voted for the resolution or abstained boasted luminaries who were freemasons: (Freemasonry emphasizes the metaphorical Temple of Solomon, and concentrates on the symbolic aspects of its physical construction relying on Biblical Sources, teachings from Templars from ca. 1446 AD and Kabbalistic writings).

Arabs of Muslim belief who were Freemasons:

(Algeria voted for the resolution)

  • Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in Egypt.
  • Muhammad ‘Abduh and Shaykh Abdullah Quilliam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt

(Egypt voted for the resolution)

Cultural Icons who were Freemasons: Nat King Cole, Cecil B. DeMille, . Arthur Conan Doyle, Duke Ellington, Clark Gable, Mozart, both Gilbert and Sullivan,  Goethe, Burl Ives, Al Jolson, Rudyard Kipling, Franz Liszt, Willie Mays, ,Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Pryor, Sugar Ray Robinson, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Gustave Eiffel, Sir Walter Scott, John Steinbeck,

Freemason Politicians: Winston Churchill; Práxedes Mateo Sagasta (1825–1903), Prime Minister of Spain (Spain abstained); Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexican general and President;(Mexico voted for the resolution)

Philosophers who were Freemasons: Marquis de Condorcet, the mathematician, and philosopher; Denis Diderot. And Voltaire. Three of the greatest philosophers were French Freemasons, yet France abstained in voting.

Freedom Fighters, Champions of Liberty and Human Rights Advocates: Henry Dunant, Red Cross Founder co-winner first Nobel Peace Prize; Lafayette; Madame de Xaintrailles, heroine of the French Revolution. Three of the greatest freedoms fighters were also French; and as mentioned above France abstained.

  • Swami Vivekanada, Hindu reformist/ revivalist Leader (1863–1902). Notably India abstained.

Freemason Scientists: Enrico Fermi, Nobel Prize winning physicist, Alexander Fleming, Edward Jenner,  Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, and Christopher Wren.

The American Experience with Freemasonry

The American association with Freemasonry (The United States voted against the resolution) is exemplified by its eleven Freemason Presidents (including George Washington), along with high level court justices (including the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall). Jesse Jackson, John Hancock, and Paul Revere were Freemasons.  Benjamin Franklin, also a Freemason, arguably the most famous scientist of his day and the father of the importance of science in diplomacy, proposed that the national insignia of America contain the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. These luminaries would have been appalled to see reference to the Temple Mount and its Jewish roots expunged by referring to the site solely in Arabic terms.

But the connection between culture and science and the Temple Mount is even more graphic and runs deeper. Solomon’s Temple and the Jewish ties to Jerusalem have been a favored theme among the most prominent of artists: The UNESCO resolution not only denies the Jewish ties to the site, but also the cultural connection as existed through our collective artistic heritage:

The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. by Edward Poynter 1890 

Not only did the artistic community venerate the Jewish ties to the Temple and to Jerusalem (the incident depicted in Rubens portrait of Abraham being welcomed by Malkitzedek as described in Genesis, reveals Malkitzedek as the King of Salem (remaned Jerusalem by Abraham after the Sacrifice). True, Abraham is the father of both the Islamic and Jewish traditions – but then shouldn’t the resolution have reflected this?

The view of the Scientific Icons

And what of the scientific community?  What was their view?  At least five of our greatest scientists were freemasons. And perhaps one can discount the views of Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, under a prejudicial construct of his Jewish roots. But what about the other candidate for the “Greatest Scientist of All Time” – Sir Isaac Newton.

As described by Gardner, Laurence (2007). Written at USA. The Shadow of Solomon: The Lost Secret of the Freemasons Revealed. and  Snobelen, Stephen D. „A time and times and the dividing of time: Isaac Newton, the Apocalypse and A.D. 2060.“. The Canadian Journal of History. pp. 537–551,, Newton’s views of the Temple Mount, both past and future, are well-documented. His depiction of the Temple of Solomon –takes its cues from the prophetic Book of Ezekiel. In his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, (London 1728) Newton devotes a chapter to the subject, and diagrams part of “the Temple of Solomon,” Newton believed that the temple was designed by King Solomon with privileged eyes and divine guidance and represented a sublime mathematical blueprint, as well as providing a time-frame chronology of Hebrew history.

As described by Kelly J. Whitmer, there were at least three large-scale wooden models of Solomon’s Temple publicly exhibited between 1660 and 1730 in several Northern European cities, including Hamburg, Amsterdam, London and Halle- facts which the UNESCO resolution decapitulates.

And as to the recent exhibit at the Max Planck Institute,  entitled  Solomon’s Temple models as scientific objects (MAX-PLANCK-INSTITUT FÜR WISSENSCHAFTSGESCHICHTE Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the UNESCO resolution is simply an insult to an important and venerated scientific establishment.

In its quest to bend to the political muscle of a plurality of its members, UNESCO abandoned its roots, insulted its icons, and made a mockery of science history and cultural heritage. There is more here at stake than simply ratifying the Jewish passion and claim to its holiest of sites. There is a duty to reflect an everlasting Truth, Truth as exhibited through the ages, through history (e.g., the Templars renditions) and not bend to the current whims of some heavy-handed political strong arms.

© Barbara Pfeffer-Billauer


We made sure that President Trump received this message before his meeting with Abbas


Shurat HaDin presented to the US President Donald Trump the Palestinian terror against Israel, and received fake information from the President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas. (Published with permission of Shurat HaDin)

May 2, 2017


The Honorable Reince Priebus

White House Chief of Staff

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.

Washington, D. C. 20500

Re:     Meeting between President Trump and Palestinian Authority

President Mahmoud Abbas

Issue of PA paying stipends to terrorists


Dear Mr. Priebus,

We are attorneys for the families of American citizens who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Israel during the recent wave of violent attacks. Our clients include the family of Taylor Force, a West Point graduate and American army veteran, who was murdered in Tel Aviv during a university visit to Israel in March 2016. We also represent the family of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a 13 year old American citizen who was stabbed to death while asleep in her bedroom in Israel in July 2016. And we represent the family of Richard Lakin, a 76 year old retired teacher and peace activist from Connecticut who was stabbed to death on a passenger bus in Jerusalem in October 2015.

We write on the occasion of the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Palestinian Authority (“PA”) President Mahmoud Abbas to ask that President Trump raise during that meeting the issue of stipends paid by the PA to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists killed in the course of committing a terrorist attack, including suicide bombers. The payment of these stipends provides an economic incentive encouraging further acts of terrorism and rewarding past terrorism. President Trump should insist that payment of such stipends immediately be halted.

Each month the PA pays terrorists incarcerated for murder of innocent civilians a monthly stipend. In instances where the terrorist is killed in the attack, the PA provides a similar monthly stipend to the family of the terrorist. The amount of the sums paid to these imprisoned terrorists is determined in part by the number of years of their jail sentence, which means that the most heinous and most violent criminals receive the largest stipends. Bashar Masalha, the terrorist who murdered Taylor Force, is sentenced to life in prison and receives as such a monthly stipend from the PA.

Mohammad Tra’ayra, the thug who stabbed Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her sleep, was killed by security guards at the scene, but his family continues to receive a stipend too. Balal Abu Gaanam, the terrorist who stabbed and murdered 76 year old Richard Lakin, is serving three life terms and receiving a stipend from the PA.

The official PA policy of providing cash payments and inducements to those who have targeted innocent victims such as our clients has caused the American families we represent untold anguish, frustration and anger. The fact that these murderers are glorified and held dear in Palestinian society compounds the acute pain and suffering inflicted upon these families by the grievous loss of their loved ones. By paying these stipends, the PA sends a powerful message to the terrorists and their families that they are honored, cherished and supported officially by the PA government and the Palestinian people, and young Palestinians are encouraged to regard the terrorists as heroes and emulate their behavior.

No civilized nation should pay stipends to loathsome criminals who deliberately target innocent victims, including sleeping children. Yet the United States is the largest provider of foreign aid to the PA. The foreign aid received from the US frees up other PA assets to pay these terrorist stipends. Since money is fungible, US foreign aid to the PA in effect subsidizes the PA terrorist stipends. We submit that subsidizing terrorist stipends is contrary to the principles that President Trump stands for.

Mr. Abbas has stated publicly that he intends to discuss the issue of Palestinian statehood with President Trump. Our clients find such a request incongruous, to say the least, coming from a leader who blatantly subsidizes terrorism, glorifies and rewards the perpetrators of heinous acts of terrorism, and thereby displays such disdain for the rule of law.

On behalf our clients, we respectfully request that President Trump demand from Mr. Abbas an immediate end to of the PA’s policy of paying stipends to terrorists.

Respectfully yours


Robert J. Tolchin, Esq.

United States Counsel to Shurat HaDin-Israel

Law Center


Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Adv.


Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
Robert Tolchin (r) and Mika Lakin

During the meeting between President Trump and President Abbas, the doors were closed to the press. As a daily routine Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave a short overview:

The two leaders made their own statements just a little bit ago.  But to give you a few additional details, some of the topics that were discussed during their meeting and the lunch were: advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace; preventing incitements to violence, particularly media outlets directly associated with the Palestinian Authority; strengthening efforts to combat terrorism, including defeating ISIS; measures to empower the Palestinian economy and provide economic opportunity for the Palestinian people.  And, additionally, the President raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror, and to their families, and emphasized the need to resolve this issue. 

Nabil Shaath
Nabil Shaat

Minutes after the official statement was published the world could learn about the palestinean truth of ths issue

Senior Palestinian Authority official has rejected the “insane” demand that it end its policy of providing social welfare payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists jailed for carrying out attacks against Israelis.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath on Thursday told Israel Radio the demand was intentionally designed to sink any potential for renewed US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He told the radio station that the Palestinian prisoners were victims of Israel’s control over the West Bank.

“It’s absurd to request that we stop paying the families of prisoners,” he said. “That would be like asking Israel to stop paying its soldiers.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the salaries paid to imprisoned terrorists by the PA constitute a major obstacle to peace.

On Tuesday, three GOP senators urged the US president to push the Palestinian leader on the PA’s cash payments.

During a joint statement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House after the Wednesday meeting, Trump only subtly referenced Palestinian violence, saying there could be no “lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violence and hate.”


Abbas, for his part, asserted “that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

Also Wednesday, Ahmad Majdalan, a senior PLO official and adviser to Abbas, told Israel Radio that in May 2014, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator Yitzchak Molcho, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US secretary of state John Kerry signed a document allowing the Palestinians to pay salaries to prisoners’ families from the Palestinian Liberation Organization fund instead of from the Palestinian Authority treasury.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday rejected the claim, calling it “another Palestinian invention, which never happened, which was intended to distract from the discussion of the demand to stop the Palestinian Authority funding terrorists.”

Full text Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel


You may find more information about the PA cash payments to terrorists and/or their families in my blog of Dec 18th 2015 .



Petra – a rock in the anti-Israeli breakers


Wednesday, July 30, 1997, 13:15, Jerusalem. Petra woke up on the „wrong“ side of the street opposite the Machaneh Yehuda Market. She was expecting guests from Canada in the evening, and during a break in her work, she wanted to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables. She was caught in the double attack by two Hamas terrorists, in which 16 people were killed, 168 severely wounded, Petra among them. Today, her serious wounds to arms, hands and face have healed, thanks to her iron discipline and good medical care, although she had to fight for five long years in order to return to life.

In 1951, Berlin had not yet been physically divided. The Federal Republic had been in existence since May 2, 1949 and the GDR since October 7 of the same year. Until the final border would be established between the two German States, including extensive barriers, the border could still be crossed in both directions.

West Berlin was still licking its wounds. The healing process started very slowly. Changes were felt at first in the inner city, and then slowly the progressing normalization could also be seen in the outer districts. In the GDR, the „World Youth Festival“ was held again in August 1951. Ernst Honecker opened the proceedings by describing what would be presented as a propaganda festival for the Soviet Union. „Long live the leader and banner bearer of world peace, the teacher of youth in all countries, our beloved Josef Stalin“.

The district of Charlottenburg, which had become part of the city in 1920, includes the favored quarters around the ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Kudamm, the Zoo Railway Station, the exhibition grounds and the now lively region around Kant Street. Jewish life also took place within the triangle between Fasanen Street, Joachimstaler Street and Pestalozzi Street.

It was in this awakening city that Petra Heldt was born in 1951 and graduated from high school in 1971.


This was the period of the 1968 student unrest, which swept over practically the whole of Europe. A revolt against the establishment, against the outdated relic of the Weimar Republic. But also against downplaying the issue of the guilt of their parents‘ generation during the Nazi period. Petra is not certain that she was influenced by those subversions. „But would I have read my Bakunin outside this period? I don’t know“.

The churches also hesitantly started a new orientation, which originated in Latin America. Accepting the criticism of the ruling church hierarchies, the Liberation Theology shifted its focus on the state of the oppressed population to the forefront of the Exegesis. There were excommunications and preaching interdictions. Often, following the change, priests filled political positions in order to strengthen the demands of people with awakening awareness from dictatorships and church authorities.

The criticism which was the spirit of the time seems to have been so stimulating for the young intellectual woman that, during her university studies, she took the time she needed to find her way and her actual objective, and to widen her knowledge. It may not always have been immediately evident how she would absorb all that towards her objective. What was the practical use of knowing how to decipher Sumerian cuneiform script? Or Aramaic, or earlier letters? In historical Palestine Aramaic was the vernacular and it appears in the writings of the Talmud and the Midrash, as well as in some of today’s Jewish prayers.

Her studies led her to the universities of Berlin and Heidelberg (comparative religious studies and languages of antiquity in the Levant Region), to Amsterdam and finally to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Petra did not see her future as the pastor of a community or a school. From the start of her studies, she saw her future in research. Ordination as a protestant pastor was never an issue. Would an ordained pastor who is at the same time a researcher fit better into the picture of the official church than someone who acted as a researcher only, thereby maintaining her autonomy? In any event, in 1985, she bowed down and was ordained in Berlin.

Petra had been living in Israel since 1979. She studied Talmud and Midrash with one of the most important German speaking rabbis of that time, Tovia Ben Chorin, and from him she learned about many daily writings such as the Siddur (the everyday prayer book) and the Machzor (the prayer book for the Jewish High Holidays).

Unknown-1At that time, she also met her husband, Malcom Lowe. At the time Malcom, together with his colleague and friend David Flusser, was investigating the „synoptic problematics“ of the three early Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. This field of religious and bible studies is about researching to what extent and which of the three gospels was used as the source for the two others. Early Christian written changes in formulation, order and emphasis only allow a vague idea of the orally transmitted story behind them. Uncovering it is exciting and shows a completely different picture of early Christianity.

In 1980, Petra presented her master’s thesis at the Church University in Berlin. Its title was: The Reading of “ Ani” and “Ebion” in the Writings of Qumran. Both terms appear several times in the fragments of the Qumran rolls and are often used in the meaning of „poor“. The Judeo-Christians around the year 100 CE called themselves „Ebionites“ to differentiate themselves from the „Nazarenes“. The name which at first was meant to be a proud description of the group, fell into disrepute. The reference to Jesus who had a very special relationship with the poor faded into the background. They were looked upon critically if not worse by their neighbors. Though they considered themselves to be Jews, Jews did not accept them as such. They saw Jesus as the Messiah and were against animal sacrifices, which were usual until the end of the Temple period. Christians of non-Jewish origin rejected them for being against Paul’s missionary work and not recognizing Christ’s atoning death as such. The Last Supper, a central point in Christian theology, became a Jesus commemoration.

In 2002, she obtained her PhD from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem after presenting her thesis: The Reading of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians 4, 21-31 in the Writings of the Early Church. A Study in Patristic Exegesis. The fact that Petra chose this subject is not surprising against the background of her master thesis. One of the main topics of her research focused on the Jews‘ influence on early Christianity. One of the significant people at the time was Paul, who used to perform intensive missionary work during his travels and tried to counter the influence of Judeo-Christian missionaries. In his epistles, he insists on the fact that Christian Salvation can only be attained through the Christ’s expiatory sacrifice, thereby opposing contrary tendencies in the early Christian community.

We need to consider Petra’s professional background in at least a few points in order to understand her aspirations for the present and the future.

She has been living in Jerusalem with her husband Malcom for 38 years. This is more than half her life up to now. The couple does not live in East Jerusalem as the mainstream would expect, but in the middle of old Jerusalem. Arnona, founded in 1938, is one of the southern parts of the city. In 1967, the war front was in the middle of the area, which then had to be abandoned. Arnona is now on its way to becoming one of the suburbs very much in demand. Here, at the highest point in town, the air is simply better, the view down to the Dead Sea unbeatable. Somewhere in its center a large building plot is kept open, which is supposed to be where the US American Embassy will be constructed.

The neighborhood has a mixed population, orthodox and secular Jews live in classic 1980s buildings. Nobody minds Petra playing the piano or „singing so loudly that the walls shake“. The apartment is the charming retreat of two pleasant scientists. There are books everywhere; the shelves are often accessible from both front and back. No enlightening literature can be found. Malcom looks for a certain book and finds it easily. But the books are not overwhelming, on the contrary, they are tempting and invite one to rummage; regrettably there is not enough time.

Petra does not want to look back at the past. „It is of no importance whatsoever“, she says. She looks forward.

She considers it her mission to restore to their rightful place the correct images of Israel which have been shifted in the minds of young, easily manipulated people. To make the close connection between the ancient Christian and Jewish religious cultures visible again. Those connections are further lost by the fact that official Christian visitors no longer have Israel on their program or, if they do, only marginally. Those visits are nowadays made almost exclusively in Judaea and Samaria. One of the most dangerous troublemakers is the Arab pastor Mitri Raheb, who denies Christ’s Jewish roots. His activities are strictly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. Nevertheless, he succeeds repeatedly to persuade visitors of all political persuasions of the truth of his intentions. Here again corrective care is needed insofar as any visitors get to Israel at all.

Petra travels tirelessly on speaking trips, training sessions, discussions, and of course, there are her publications. Her deepest wish is that Israel will never become a Muslim-influenced terror State. The latest UNESCO resolution, denying Israel any connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is a step in the wrong direction. As is the recognition of historical sites in Jewish history as being „pre-Palestinian“ or even „Palestinian“.

„Antisemitism in the form of Anti-Israelism“, as per Petra’s gloomy prediction, „is now growing in every direction and, like each generation, ours will have to stop this anti-biblical spirit. Jewish and Christian voices warn about the Muslim demand to destroy Israel. The Shoah is the ultimate reminder to protect life. Wherever the Church Authorities are failing, individual Christians must fill the void“.

This is a mission requiring much strength, in particular because the official church opinion may not agree with everything.

Friday, April 14, 2017, 12:45, Jerusalem. Jews are celebrating Passover, Christians are observing Good Friday. Jerusalem is expecting over 150,000 visitors for the weekend. Hannah Bladon, an exchange student from Birmingham, will shortly complete her time in Jerusalem. In the crowded tram, she leaves her seat to a pregnant woman. Next to her stands her murderer. Hannah will not survive the terrorist attack.

csm_78806_78824_01_58c49dfe49The attack on her own life in 1997 did not cause Petra to be traumatized. But the Good Friday attack shook her profoundly: Hannah was a student of hers.

„Hannah was one of the few students with whom I had built a special relationship. What she did at the end of her life, when she gave her seat to a pregnant woman, that was Hannah, always helpful. I am so shaken by her death; I cannot yet believe it is true:“

But still, Petra does not look backwards: she looks to the future, where she feels her mission lies.




©esther scheiner, Israel

© translated by: Translation International, Herzliya

Unequal neighbors, but still neighbors



Jisr az-Zarqa could be a beautiful place. It is the only purely Arab settlement in Israel lying on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. To the north, it borders on the fish ponds of Kibbutz Maagan Michal, to the south on the city of Caesarea. To the northeast lies the „Taninim (Crocodile) Stream National Park”. The last living crocodile was killed there at the end of the 19th century, and since that time visitors no longer need to fear for their lives in the region. „Crocodile Stream“, the border between Jisr az-Zarqa and Maagan Michael, is one of the cleanest rivers in Israel. The name Jisr az-Zarqa means „Bridge of the Blue (= the blue river)“. For the thin trickle of water that reaches the coast, this label is rather questionable. It is only noticeable as a stream during the few weeks of the rainy season each year. To the east, the settlement borders on a highway.

Jisr 1

In the 4th century, BCE there was a city here by the name „Crocodilopolis“. Some remains can still be explored in the national park. In 1834, around 700 colonizers came here with the army of Muhammad Ali, who wanted to conquer the country for himself as vice-king following the revolt of the peasants against the Egyptian rulers.

The majority of the original population were members of the Bedouin Clan Ghawarina, who came from the Jordan Valley at the end of the 19th century and settled in the malarial swamps that made the coastal strip uninhabitable. When Jewish families started settling in the region of today’s Zichron Yaacov from 1882, on an extensive strip along the coast and the foothills of the Carmel that had been legally acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, they employed the Bedouins living in the swamps to drain them.

At the entrance to the Zichron Yaacov cemetery, a plaque reminds us that a great number of the first settlers were struck down by malaria, but the Bedouin seemed to be immune to the malaria pathogens.

The project was completed in 1928. In gratitude for their invaluable help that had made permanent settlement possible, the Bedouin were given a strip of land bordering on the former swamps. The strip encompassed 12,000 dunams, about 150 ha, lying on a hill near the beach. That was how the boundaries of Jisr az-Zarqa were determined.

And that was the beginning of the first problem, which the village has not yet been able to resolve.


Even when in other similar cases one says that a settlement „lies between…“ in this case it can only be called cynical. Nowadays there is only one way of reaching the village. The much too narrow and much too low path passes under a bridge, which has been decorated by art loving inhabitants. But the ceramic has long ago been damaged by the trucks who leave their marks in the cement.

Once upon a time there was a second bridge that was built for Emperor Wilhelm II’s visit in 1898. It spanned the estuary of the Crocodile Stream and was intended for the Emperor to travel from Haifa to Jerusalem without getting his wet feet. There is no documentation showing whether he ever rode over the bridge and its former location can only be discerned from the ruins.

The second problem started with the alleged total expulsion of the Arab population from their villages and towns by Jews during the 1948 war, referred to by the Arabs as the „Nakba“ (catastrophe).  In fact, in most cases, the Arabs were told by their own leaders to leave their settlements, the underlying idea being that the Jews would be defeated and expelled within a few days, and then the population that had run away would be able to return and take over, with big and profitable benefits.  That decision did not produce the desired result. The army of the young Israeli State won the war, and around 750,000 Arabs – whether due to the intervention of their own compatriots or expulsion by the Jews – lost their homes.

Those 750,000 refugees have now, 69 years later, become more than 5 million. They are being taken care of by the UN organization, UNWRA, and are financed by taxpayers‘ money from all over the world as well as by donations from anti-Israel NGOs.

One tends to forget that, at the same time, in 1948, 780,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries. They came to Israel and were completely integrated into society as rapidly as possible, without the assistance of any special UN organization.

But the Arabs were not forced to flee everywhere. In the two villages Jisr az-Zarqa and the neighboring Fureidis, the mayors of Binyamina and Zichron Yaacov saw to it that the inhabitants remained in their homes. Fureidis, which lies a few kilometers further inland, developed into a prosperous township. The population of both settlements is similar in size, but Fureidis has almost twice the area.

The third problem was the good relationship between those two Arab settlements with their Jewish neighbors during the period of the British Mandate. While the inhabitants of Fureidis were soon forgiven by the Palestinians for this circumstance, the people in Jisr az-Zarqa are still being condemned as collaborators.

The fourth problem is the ethnic composition of the population. Both Jews and Arabs have been calling them „black“ and „Sudanese“ for decades, despite the fact that the population includes Bedouins, Jordanians, Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians as well as Sudanese. They are referred to as Africans, or even swamp dwellers, and until recently there were practically no marriages between the inhabitants of Jisr az-Zarqa and those of other Arab settlements.

Due to all those circumstances, the village has not been able to develop and become a modern town.

There has not been any connection to public transport. Those who want to take a bus must walk several kilometers to the next bus stop. The sea has long been overfished, so that the fishermen sometimes come home with such a small catch that it is barely enough for their own consumption.

Until a few years ago there was only a primary school in the village. Those who wanted to go on to high school had to take into account long rides on the school bus. Now at least there is a Junior High School, but still the number of dropouts and illiterates is very high. Only a few have completed a college education.

There are no empty building plots. If a family increases in size, a second or even third floor is added onto the existing one.

The crime rate is high. Israeli taxi drivers try to avoid trips to Jisr az-Zarqa.

Conditions of life in the village are not really favorable to achieving economic success. The village is the at the bottom of the gross social product scale.

Villa in Caesarea sold by Sotheby

Caesarea, one of the richest communities in Israel, demonstratively separated from its poor neighbor a few years ago. In a cloak and dagger operation a barrier was built between the two municipal areas, allegedly in order to reduce the muezzin’s volume, which had been disturbing the holy rest of the villa owners five times a day. More probably it was in order to hide the naked poverty from their eyes.

Actually the village has good potential. The beach leading gently down to crystal clear water could be developed. The Israel Trail, leading from the far north to the far south, goes through Jisr az-Zarqa.


A few years ago, a guesthouse was opened in the village – an ideal layover for backpackers. The idea originated with Neta Hanien, a Jewish Israeli lawyer. Ahmad Juha, the owner of an ice-cream parlor and coffee shop, was the partner who managed to open the closed doors of the uncooperative villagers. The two of them played with the idea, collected the necessary amounts through crowdfunding. The plan seems to have succeeded. The small hostel with two sleeping halls and two double-rooms has been adopted by backpackers.

Movie crews have come twice to the village, looking for the „perfect location“ to make a movie about the „refugee camp in Gaza“.

But this alone will not save Jisr.

Twice the name of the settlement has been mentioned in the media during recent years: Once, when the possibly oldest woman on earth, Mariam Anmash, died in 2012 at the age of 124. Her Israeli ID gave 1888 as the year of her birth;  the day and month were not given, as they were unknown. She left ten children and about 300 grandchildren and great grandchildren.


The second time was in 2016:  when the Israeli National Soccer League player Taleb Tawatha went to play for Eintracht Frankfurt, he was mentioned in Wikipedia as a „famous citizen“ on the Jisr az-Zarqa page.



Not much good resulted from a school trip when children from Caesarea visited the neighboring village of Jisr az-Zarqa. The trip was organized by the „New Way“ organization, which is firmly established in the Ministry of Education’s program. The village children showed the children from Caesarea their mosque – so far so good. They also showed them their prayer rituals. Whether invited to do so or not, the Jewish children knelt on the prayer rugs and bowed during prayers according to Islamic ritual. Grown-ups are free to decide to what extent they wish to open up to new experiences. Children are easily influenced, and may not understand the consequences of such decisions. So this was a rather problematic incident, which became scandalous when account was taken of the fact that one of the notoriously anti-Israeli NGOs, the „NIF“ (New Israel Fund) had supported New Way with US$ 94,000 in the year 2015 alone. Hopefully Minister Naftali Bennet will get the message and will immediately put an end to cooperation with „New Way“.

It is also to be hoped that the relationship between these neighbors will not deteriorate following this incident provoked by NIF.

© esther scheiner, israel

© translated by: Translation International, Herzliyah


We may sometimes wish for silence, but never for deafness


There is the silence in the middle of the night, when no bird is singing, no engine noise disturbs us, when we hear no human voice. At such moments the world seems to have come to a standstill, to have fallen out of time. Such absolute silence may wake us – it does not comply with the norm. In such case we may wait for a „saving sign of life“: a barking dog, a snoring partner, a child murmuring in its sleep without waking up. Those small noises are soothing, they reestablish the norm.

Regarding the significance of silence in Judaism and other religions I found this fascinating passage from a book.

„Whereas the upright person expresses praise through the spoken prayer, the just through moving lips voicelessly, whereas the pious does not release the work from his tongue, the understanding holy man hides his worship inside: „Once a person reaches the highest level of understanding he must remain silent“. In Buddhism, silence exceeds the language itself. In Buddhist dialectics one must overcome logical thinking. Truth flares up only in the indissoluble contradiction, and only in enacting silence will enlightenment be achieved. This Zen experience defies any rational access.

The silence to which the self-named ascetic exposes himself brings him completely into himself. Not everyone can stand this voluntary retreat from the community. Silent orders such as Trappist or Carthusian monks permit speaking only on exceptional occasions. Even meals are not taken communally, except on holidays.

The Freemasons initiation rite also includes a moment during which silence is kept and nothing is said. This detail was revealed in the Magic Flute: for the duration of the tests that will finally lead him together with Pamina into the Temple of Wisdom, the priest imposes the duty of silence on Prince Tamino, the purpose of which is for him to be wholly into himself and his objectives.

Any healthy person who voluntarily submits to such silence, can end it any time he wants. His ability to listen and speak suffers no lasting damage by even a long period of silence.

It is sometimes simply beneficial to retreat from the multitude of stimuli that unceasingly hit us. Acoustic and optic stimuli are the two most intensive sources of excitation. Since the brain has a separate „switchboard“ for each stimulus, as a rule no mental overload occurs even if, for instance, the disco music is too loud and the lights too dazzling. Not the amount of stimuli causes the overload, but the actual consumption. Sometimes however we cannot avoid being stimulated.

For persons with autism the borderline between the barely endurable and unendurable stimuli is extremely narrow.

Persons with autism certainly did not choose their problem. Their daily life is a constant fight against the unavoidable. Their survival mechanism is to retreat into a world known and explored only by themselves.

It is different for people who are deaf and dumb from birth.

They have chosen neither the stillness nor the silence that surround them, which are not due to illness, nor can they end them at will.

In early societies the very fact of being „dumb“ implied that you were stupid. Nowadays society only considers a person to be dumb, i.e. unable to communicate, who is not familiar with sign language. Such a person is designated „sign-language speech-impaired person“.

People who are deaf from birth and were not so lucky as to enjoy appropriate training in early childhood, lack the capacity to hear and to form useful tone sequences that create words. They are able to read and write. However, they cannot engage in a conversation at a normal rate of speech. The logical alternative is to learn sign language.

There are also children who, as long as the auditory nerve is properly formed during the early fetal period (until the 3rd month), develop hearing ability. Should this not be the case, experts suggest an operation during the first year of life, which is the period during which language acquisition occurs. There are two windows of opportunity for an operation in infancy. The first is between the 8th and the 9th month. Long-term studies show a significantly high number of babies and toddlers who, thanks to this help, develop normal hearing ability and as a consequence acquire language, so that there is no need for further help. The second window of opportunity ends at the age of about 3 1/2. It must be made clear that the longer the brain is denied acoustic stimuli, the greater the danger of permanent deafness.

In the case of a cochlear implantation, an inner ear implant is inserted under general anesthetics in the course of an operation that takes about two hours. The external part consists of a microphone, a speech processor, a coil and a battery. The implant includes a coil, a signal (speech) processor with stimulator and stimulating electrodes. The two coils are fixed with magnets.


Acoustic signals received via the mike are transformed into electrical signals by the speech processor. Afterwards the signals are transmitted to the internal speech processor. The processor transmits them to the electrode array that was placed into the cochlea. The electrodes have a stimulating effect on the hearing nerve and, as a result, the impression of hearing is created in the brain.


For people who have never heard in their life this is an overwhelming experience, but beside the happiness it can also cause fear. Overstimulation might lead to fear and terror.

For this reason it is extremely important to start rehabilitation and hearing training as soon as possible after implantation. The brain must slowly learn how to assign the stimuli to the corresponding regions and process them there. But to do so the brain must first learn how to differentiate between various noises.

The younger the patient, the faster the learning process.


The second big learning task is to connect words familiar to the patient with the corresponding sounds, i.e. what a toddler achieves daily without problems.

The operation costs about 20,000 Euro, post care expenses not included.

Presently, 17 children from Gaza, as well as from Judaea and Samaria, are undergoing this life changing operation at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The treatment was enabled by the Peres Center for Peace. This Center, initiated by the late President Shimon Peres, was established to help Palestinian children in cases of medical emergencies.

Six of the 17 small Palestinian patients have already undergone the operation. In several cases the documents for entering Israel had first to be issued by the Israel Defense Ministry, because they had no documents whatever.

The children also arrived without any medical documents. They first had to undergo a thorough check-up in Jerusalem to ensure that their general condition allowed surgery.

A new world has opened up for these children. Now they will have to stay at a rehabilitation center for the time it takes them to acquire sufficient verbal assurance to get along by themselves in daily life.

© esther scheiner, israel

© Translated by: Translations International, Herzliya

Can you make a career as a woman in Gaza? Yes you can!



Is there anything we don’t know yet about Gaza?

Gaza is occupied by Israel. Wrong! There is not a single Israeli in Gaza.

Gaza is the largest open-air jail in the world. Wrong! The Erez border crossing is open daily, around the clock.

Israel prevents entry from Gaza to Israel. Wrong! The terrorist organization of Hamas prevents Gazans from leaving Gaza even in humanitarian or medically necessary cases.

Israel blocks any influx of goods to Gaza. Wrong! Israel supplies dozens of tons of building materials, food, gas for cooking and heating, medical supplies and other goods every day through the [Kerem] Shalom crossing to Gaza.

In Gaza, life is without any question much more difficult than the life we are accustomed to. After all, nearly 1.9 million inhabitants live on 360 km2. That is an average population density of 5,300 persons per km2. That is a lot.

The total population figures also include 1.3 million refugees from the years 1948/49, who are under the care of UNWRA. They live in eight refugee camps, of which the „Beach Camp“ (aka: Al-Shati Camp) is the most densely populated one with nearly 82,000 inhabitants on 1 km2 (!).

In Gaza City, more than 550,000 people live on 45 km2, which corresponds to a population density of over 12,000 [per km2]. Modern Gaza is certainly one of the most densely populated cities in the world and is hardly different from any other modern metropolis. But during the IDF operations against Hamas terror, no damage was caused to the buildings or the infrastructure. That is amazing!



The majority of the population of the entire Gaza Strip is divided into Gaza City, Kfar Yunis and Rafah. Yet, this must not be seen as an absolute fact. Between the densely populated areas there are regions that are almost deserted. But no one wants to settle there, either because they could lose their inheritable refugee status, or because the country is not yet developed there and does not meet the demands of their living standards.

For comparison: in Bnei Brak, a predominantly orthodox city next to Tel Aviv, 22,400 people live on one square kilometer, in Monaco 18,000, in Hong Kong nearly 6,500, in Munich 4,600, in London 5,400, in Zurich some 4,000 and in Berlin some 3,900 .

So where is the problem? Too many people or too little space?

Gaza is simply different. There seem to be two parallel societies.The gap between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, seems to widen more and more.

Anyone who can, migrates, or at least has a second residence abroad. Qatar is the favorite country. From there money flows to Hamas, there the terrorist leaders can live a luxurious life.

Hamas apologists receive the financial means to buy building materials for reconstruction. These are delivered to the Gaza Strip by Israel free of charge and seized by Hamas. Whereupon they are resold by Hamas not according to urgency, but as Hamas deems suitable. A ton of cement costs US$ 15. A lot of money for those who have nothing.

Those who are not at the top of the hierarchy have at least bought an ultramodern apartment in Gaza City. The money for this comes mainly from selling goods imported from Egypt via the smuggling tunnels. These, too, were sold at a profit with 20% tax. It took a long time before Egypt started systematically destroying the tunnels. But the deliveries could not be stopped completely.

The real estate business in Gaza is booming. Here, too, Hamas loyalists share the businesses among themselves. The Hamas leaders take best of the offers. Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh has bought a plot of 2,500 m2 in prospering Rimal on the coast, at the price of US$ 4 and had it registered immediately in his son’s name. Other properties are registered in the names of relatives.

Only his three sisters and their children are excluded from his generosity. They are Israeli nationals and live in the Bedouin city of Tel-as-Sabi. Some of their children have completed their military service in the IDF.

If you are a member of the upper middle class in Gaza, or if you can afford it, you would also like to enjoy an appropriate infrastructure. Therefore, hotels of up to 5* are available.

The Al Mashtal Hotel, which opened in 2011 with much mumbo-jumbo, is plodding along. All the same, there is an entry concerning the hotel in the Tripadvisor of May 16, 2016. There is no information on whether it is still open or already closed.

The Grand Palace Hotel promises a lot,  some pages are still being built, although it started operating in 2004. The last Tripadvisor entry was in July 13, 2011.

The Blue Beach Resort still seems to be operating – the last Tripadvisor entry was in October 2016.

The Blue Beach Resort

However, Al Deira enjoys much popularity. Because of its proximity to the beach and the good price/performance ratio, the hotel was and is very popular with foreign journalists. As to whether it is a myth or the truth that the hotel and its surroundings during the last Gaza operation was a no-go area for the IAF, I have no proof.

Now we come to the woman whom I want to describe. Mona Adnan Ghalayini was born in the Beach Camp, where the worst living conditions prevail, see

Apparently there is a two-class society there, as well: On the one hand there are those who have nothing, really nothing at all, and also have no prospects for the future. On the other hand there are those who not only have a substantial regular income, but also a liberal worldview. There are parents whose daughters are free to choose a career and even complete their education abroad. The professions that are accepted in Muslim families, such as teachers, nurses, or administrators, are not what Mona considers a dream job. Particularly important and helpful for this young woman, who chose an unusual path for a Muslima, is the support by her family, experienced by both her and her sister, which continued even after her father’s death.

Mona does not reveal her age in an interview with Palestine Pulse. The fact that she received her accounting diploma in Jordan in 1992 may serve as an indication. Today she could be in her mid-40s.

Why Jordan? The Al-Azhar University, founded by Arafat, offers study courses as well as postgraduate studies in all disciplines. However, due to the special situation in Gaza, students have only very limited access to other scientific think tanks.

Mona made good use of her unique opportunity. Today she is the most prominent businesswoman in Gaza and the only one who is CEO of a group that operates hotels, restaurants and hypermarkets.

Her hotel career was almost classic: in 1992, she started as a receptionist in a small hotel on the beach. Small hotels are good for a quick career. After six months, she was promoted to the position of manager’s assistant which, as I can say from my own experience, is nothing but a title without power. One is responsible for everything but not allowed to decide anything.

Mona stayed there for five years, then the hotel closed down. However, during those years she had been able to make contacts that helped her take the next step.

Together with a partner, she opened the Sae Breeze Hotel in 2000, see: The mini-hotel with only eight rooms is said to have a very pleasant restaurant. In 2011, the author of the article hoped that the house would develop into a gastronomic highlight immediately after the opening of the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, his hope has not yet been fulfilled, and probably will not come true as long as Hamas holds its firm grip on the Gaza Strip.

In 2003, a second project came to life, the Big Bite Restaurant in the immediate vicinity of Al-Azhar University, a strategically excellent location for a well-maintained and high-quality self-service restaurant.



Other businesses opened and closed. Today, five businesses belong to the empire. This requires long working days. To always know what is going on, what is going well and where there are problems, she has to be on each spot at least once a day. Time for family and friends is hardly there. As in any other industry, it is important to be able to react quickly to problems. As a woman in Gaza, she feels this pressure all the more strongly. Everything is considered suspicious. Every mistake is a reason for malice.

She can relax on her travels abroad. Her permanent visa as a businesswoman allows her unimpeded entry into and exit out of the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. However, she can not fly from the Israeli Ben Gurion airport, but has to travel to Amman. A flight from Egypt would also be possible at any time. But this variant is too uncertain: Egypt holds the border with Rafah mostly closed. In contrast, the Israeli border crossing Erez is active and open year-round.

On her travels, which have taken her to numerous countries worldwide, she mostly books 5* hotels. Knowing that it is difficult to be innovative and to offer constant quality in Gaza, she tries to meet colleagues on her travels and find new things she can use in her work back home.

Salah Abu Hasira, Chairman of the Palestinian Committee for Restaurants, Hotels and Touristic Services, regrets that there are currently only ten female employees in the hotel/gastronomy sector in Gaza. One of these young ladies can be seen in this video receiving her training certificate.

For Mona it is not clear why this number is so low. Before Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the Gaza Strip was occupied, it was normal for women to work in the tourism branch. She is unable to explain when and especially why men started to claim this domain for themselves almost 100%. Above all, this change took place several years before the fundamentalist Hamas took over the government de facto and imposed Sharia legislation. Then, too, women did not have equal rights, but it was still far from the dramatic restrictions they are facing now. If at the time it was not policy that strongly restricted women in their choice of occupation, it can only be explained by reasons of tradition.

It could be a prohibition from the world of Fatwas: „A woman’s work area may only be for women, such as teaching girls, whether it is administrative or technical work, or work as a seamstress at home making clothes for women, etc. As regards working in areas where men are, that is not allowed, because it requires them to mix with men, which is a great fitna (temptation) and should be avoided.“

This seems to be the answer to the question of women’s low employment rate. And unfortunately, this will probably not change in the foreseeable future.

Many women in Gaza have given up. Although they had worked successfully in the social sector and were even employed as principals, they prefer to stay at home. They are too strongly influenced by the social conditions imposed on them.

Mona herself believes that her professional skills and successes have helped her to gain some recognition and respect, the respect she also shows her colleagues and partners.

On the other hand, during her visits to her companies she often meets young women, especially in the Big Bite, who ask her how she succeeded in building a successful career as a businesswoman. „Once you have set yourself a goal, you have to pursue it with all your might.“

At present, her team of employees consists of 150 people who work in her five projects. These projects are the Roots 1 Hotel with its well-known Club in Rimal, the flagship resort at the beach front site, the Roots 2 Hotel and Restaurant on the beach of Gaza City, the Al-Deira Hotel, which I have already described above, the Big Bite SB restaurant and the Care 4 hypermarket, also in Rimal.

It is clear that Mona cannot be the owner of this business package. In an article by Khaled-Abu-Toameh, I found evidence that the financial group Al-Hayat Tureed Company in Bahrain acts at least as the owner of the hypermarket, and if Khaled writes this, I assume that it is so.

It is not my intention to elaborate on this point and look for and find further information. In writing this blog I am not interested in revealing political connections. Instead, I wanted to show the fact that a woman in Gaza has succeeded in building something of her own, something completely independent. Something that can also be achieved by other young women, who still consider her an alien, if they have the required courage and perseverance.

When the borders open, at some point, Gaza can once again become what it used to be. A beautiful strip of land with undisturbed nature and dream beaches! Gaza deserves it.


© estherscheiner, israel


Translated by: Translations international, Herzliya

Fly me to the moon – How Israel is going to conquer the moon


Google Lunar XPrize is prepared to spend 30 million US$, so that an enterprise funded 90% with private money can bring a robot to land on the moon. 10% may be financed by public funds or government budgets.

16 teams were competing at the beginning of the tender: Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Hungary, Brasil, Canada, Chile – each with one team, the US with two teams, as well as two international groups.

The final participants have now been determined:

Team SpaceIL, Israel – Moon express, United States – Synergy Moon, International – TeamIndus, India – Hakuto, Japan

754082501002499640360noGoogle started the project Lunar XPrize in 2011. Why was it the moon among all destinations that became the goal of this ambitious challenge? One of the key sentences is the following:

„If we explore the moon, we shall discover the universe“

SpaceIL is a NPO founded in 2011 with a single objective: to conquer the moon. The organization which was originally founded by three young engineers in order to be able to participate in the competition, included at the time the founders Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub. Nowadays, the CEO Eran Privman is the head of the enterprise, with 30 full time employees and dozens of volunteers.

As is the case with most of the numerous Israeli NPOs and start-ups, it shows two characteristics. First, the mean age is very low and secondly, even in highly technical and specialized enterprises there is a very high percentage of women as compared to Europe.

And yes, another characteristic – the goal usually is not only the one in the foreground, but also, perhaps even mainly, what lies behind it. In the first grades of middle school, pupils are already introduced to the fields of technology, sciences, engineering, new technologies and applied mathematics. Those who develop particular talents in those fields are nurtured accordingly. This is why SpaceIL promised that any money they may earn in the course of the competition would be forwarded to relevant institutions.


This is where SpaceIL intends to take action, with the aim of triggering off the „Apollo Effect“ again in Israel. The first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who burned to death when returning to earth on February 1st, 2003 in the space shuttle Columbia, remains unforgotten. The space shuttle broke apart when reentering the earth atmosphere. His son Assaf, who wanted to follow in his father’s steps, died when his fighter aircraft crashed in 2009.

Israel needs more young people deciding to study science. Presently they are only 6%, whereas in the OECD they are 15 – 20%. The IDF urgently needs 12,000 new recruits a year in order to develop Israeli defense systems. Israel is the start-up country. But, as one tends to forget in all that euphoria, those start-ups deal mainly with the field of medicine, medical technology and IT. SpaceIL intends to champion the right curricula on all school levels, in order to motivate students before they decide on higher education, to go for the fields of science, technology and engineering. To this effect partnerships with US American Space Centers are meant to be of assistance. They are supposed to address Jewish highschool students and involve them in the program. In this manner beside the scientific relations the young peoples personal links to Israel are to be strengthened.

The planet closest to us, the moon, is the door to space for us. Children look up to the sky and believe they can see a face, the „man in the moon“, and they are certain that there is life on this cold and luminous planet. Sweet melancholic lullabies have been putting children to bed, both in German as in English speaking countries.

In Bereshit 1,14 – 1,18, the story of creation describes how God creates the heavenly bodies and assigns them tasks: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.


In the 1st century BCE Poseidonios already knew that the sun’s and the moon’s tidal forces are responsible for ebb and flow, the moon’s forces being about double that of the sun. For a long time it remained unclear why tides repeat themselves regularly in the course of a day. In the meantime it has become clear that the predictable regularity is due to the earth’s regular compression and expansion.

In numerous ancient cultures it was taken for granted that during menstruation women retired to the „red tent“. The fact that several women stayed there at the same time is due to the moon, which needs 29.5 days to complete its orbit, i.e. exactly the length of the female cycle. This withdrawal was not considered to be an isolation nor an exclusion, it was supposed to leave women time to concentrate on themselves and to be exempted from all tasks. If you would like to read more on the subject, I warmly recommend Anita Diamant’s novel „The Red Tent“.

SpaceIL will be successful, everyone involved in the project is convinced thereof. This will make it possible to expand horizons towards new innovative ways for exploring space beyond what was discovered until now. From the point of view of the economy, this may create another strong business sector.


Only innovative Israeli nano- and micro satellite technologies (MisST) are being used to build the relatively small and cheap spacecraft. Those technologies are also state of the art at NASA and have been further developed in Israel. Those MisST are particularly suited for pictures that are taken by free-flying aircraft and forwarded. SpaceIL is about the size of a household washing machine. Instead of a rover that allows movement on the moon surface, this device will rely on the „Hop“ system. Following a first landing and taking of soil samples, SpaceIL will not move further on the ground, but will use the remaining fuel to take off again and land shortly thereafter at a 500 m distance. The conditions for a successful participation will be listed later.

In October 2015 SpaceIL announced that they are the first participant to be confirmed as taking part in the race to the moon. For the end of 2017 an agreement was signed with the US American SpaceX Rocket Company. SpaceIL is to be brought to its target by a Falcon 9 rocket.

Presently SpaceIL is being equipped by the Israeli Aerospace Industries with the most important electronic components and is submitted to rigorous tests under conditions similar to those in space.

What are the assignments in this highly endowed competition?

The objectives to be attained actually sound quite simple:

  1. The spacecraft is to land on the surface of the moon
  2. It must move to a distance of 500 m
  3. High resolution photographs and videos are to be transmitted to earth

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

However upon taking a closer look at the conditions, there are several crucial points!

  1. Both the planned start and as a result of it the planned landing must be announced in advance.
  2. The route to be covered by the spacecraft can be either under, on or over the surface of the moon. The distance can be covered either directly between two previously defined points, or else with a series of also previously announced and authorized segments. SpaceIL has chosen the air route – see above.
  3. Two high-resolution videos of 8 minutes each must be transmitted to earth in real-time. The first video immediately after landing and the second immediately before the end of the mission. A 360° camera must send panoramic pictures from the landing site and/or the work area.
  4. The SpaceIL team must transmit a data paket of 100 kilobytes volume prepared by XPRIZE to the spacecraft and back to earth.
  5. Each team must attach to the space craft a paket including a data carrier and a commemorative tablet. The attachment must be made in a manner allowing later moon explorers to easily find the packet.

What can be won?

  1. The first prize amounts to 20 million US$
  2. The second placeis endowed with 6 million US$

Milestone amounts will be paid for any accomplishments achieved during preparations. In case that the winner of the first and/or second place is one of the milestone winners, the amounts received will be deducted from the prize money. Until now 5,25 million US$ were paid, p.e. 1 million each to Teams Indu and Hakuto and 2 millions to Moon Express.

Bonus amounts up to a total of 4 million US$ will be paid for special unplanned scientific or technical findings.

Apollo Heritage Bonus for the team that will succeed in creating a significant reminder of the Apollo missions 11 to 17. In this case, in order to win 4 million US$, two additional videos, a panoramic photograph and a meaningful picture of the spacecraft are to be transmitted to earth.

Water Detection Prize 4 million US$ for the team that can give a scientifically verifiable proof of the existence of water on the moon.

Survival Bonus Prize. The reward for the teams whose spacecraft will survive a lunar night with fully functional equipment and can fulfill its tasks on the second day will be rewarded with 2 million US$. The temperature fluctuation goes from about 123°C during the day and minus 150° C during the night. Of course, this success has to be verified with the corresponding video and panoramic photographs, as well as with mail and text messages.

Not only the young scientists at SpaceIL are convinced that their mission will be successful. They have succeeded in finding quite a few private partners and supporters, who will supply them with the necessary financial resources so that the project may succeed.

For those of you who have found this exciting project too dry, here is a video by Frank Sinatra with his famous song „Fly me to the moon“, that was dedicated to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the two first human beings who set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969.

© esther scheiner, israel

Translated by: Translation International, Herzliya