Beresheet: Israel’s Way of Laughing its Way to the Moon

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It is likely that hundreds of thousands gathered around televisions and computer screens in Israel alone to watch what they hoped and believed would be a successful landing on the moon. Israel’s privately funded Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning” and the first word of the Torah as well as the name of the first book), was scheduled to land at 10:25 p.m. Israel time.

Ben Gurion Airport’s mobile app even included the landing in it’s departure page, indicating that Beresheet was scheduled to land at 22:00 with a destination designated as “MOON”.

At the President’s House in Jerusalem, an assembly of children and their parents gathered. At command center, the Prime Minister and his wife, the US Ambassador to Israel and his wife, and other dignitaries gathered. Within a short while, we were treated to Beresheet’s final selfie before landing. Minutes later, the trouble began.

First communication was lost with Beresheet, Israel’s first attempt to land a space craft on the moon. The command room, guests and a nation watched as communication was restored, only to hear that the main engine had failed. Technicians frantically tried to restart the system.

That too was successful, but other systems failed. The approach speed was too fast…in minutes it was all over. “It wasn’t the landing we anticipated,” it was announced. And then, calmly, the speakers began to not only accept the loss, but celebrate the success and the accomplishment. No, we didn’t exactly land on the moon as expected, but we did get there.

Even as the Prime Minister walked up to the microphone to say a few words, someone said, “better luck next time” and people laughed. Yes, indeed. It wass an amazing thing to watch and truly something very Israeli.

Without a doubt, we could have been embarrassed, upset, devastated. The one reaction that came so naturally was one that I wouldn’t have expected in advance. Israel celebrated and laughed. Millions of dollars wasted? Not even close. Mission almost accomplished and in a world of science, that’s huge.

BASA – Roughly translated as “Bummer” or “what an embarrassment”

Within minutes, the speakers rallied and focused on the positive. Israel HAS successfully become the 7th country on earth to successfully orbit the moon. And, Israel has successfully become the 4th country on earth to land on the moon, not once, but thousands of times. That was the joke my son came home with tonight. But there were others.

It’s all over Facebook. Israelis are laughing. This wasn’t a tragedy. It was a victory and minutes after the crash, Israel’s Prime Minister was standing there, committing the nation to trying again. Perhaps within 2-3 years. More, the man started fundraising right there. After approaching the man who financed this endeavor, Netanyahu called out to the US Ambassador to Israel. “David, can you help us?”

Meanwhile, the Internet and Facebook jokes abound. Some were political, poking fun at the recent election results; others reflected other aspects of Israel’s culture. Here’s a quick sample of some:

What does Beresheet and Kachol Lavan have in common? Low budget, great achievement and…oops…crash.
  • Israel put the Israeli flag on the moon….All over the moon.
  • Gaza is handing out candy (referring to the many times Arabs have distributed sweets after terror attacks; or danced in the streets, after 9/11, for example)
  • What a shame to go 5 million kilometers and not find parking in blue and white (blue and white are the colors of Israel, the color we use to indicate you can legally park in that spot, and the name of Benny Gantz’s political party…which was defeated by the Likud)
  • Apparently, there’s a new crater on the moon (from my brother)
  • We’re used to blocking rockets, not landing them (Facebook)
  • The UN has called an emergency meeting of the General Assembly to condemn Israel for littering the moon.
  • We’ll call the next one Shmot (Exodus, the second book of the Torah)
  • We got to the Moon but didn’t send EL AL pilot’s so it wasn’t a great landing….
  • Rest in pieces, Beresheet
  • Most expensive “selfie” in history
  • We had a spaceship on the moon longer than Gantz was Prime Minister
  • Lesson learned: Don’t take selfies while driving!
  • Nothing unusual here in a crash landing, it’s just how Israelis drive. (Marcia Fremont)
  • There’s a small problem with the Israeli space craft, they can’t find a parking spot. (Joan Gittel Levin)
  • Last night was the culmination of YEARS of trying to reconcile the story of creation with the big bang theory…
And picking up on the upcoming Passover holiday and the song, “Dayenu” – it would have been enough:
  • If we send a spacecraft to the moon but don’t successfully land, Dayeinu (credit: Gittel Levin)

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