Everyone gets excited by objects landing on the moon for the same reason that some get excited over sports: It is the ultimate universal amazement over the spirit of humankind, physical or mental, that manages to overcome the enormous obstacles on the path to achievements that break through new frontiers. And what frontier is farther, more impressive and sparks the imagination than outer space?
But this was not the only reason the attempted landing on the moon by the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet was broadcast live Thursday night over every possible channel in Israel.
The entire operation attracted enormous attention, partly because Israelis are yearning for a unifying experience. They want something not surrounded by partisanship, anything that people can agree on for a moment and be happy.
Since the founding of Israel, every shared and unifying dream has disintegrated. There is almost nothing that people don’t disagree about – including, and maybe mostly – the formative national and religious events. Lacking fundamental shared experiences in the lives of the people, when even sports these days are an arena for political infighting, and after a divisive and especially painful election campaign – the Beresheet project provided a small and rare sort of opportunity to appreciate an achievement together, which was seemingly neutral.
This is why the loss of communications with the spacecraft, just a moment before the anticipated landing, and just a moment before the announcement of the final election vote results, which at the very last moment went awry – exactly like the landing – felt like one big metaphor. Like the country that could have been, but we have missed out on. In the high-tech superpower filled with traffic jams and embarassing trains, where it's impossible to receive a package in the mail, and votes can't be correctly counted, everything is so close, but not quite.
Two representatives of the big political dispute, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, rushed to give their condolences to those who worked on the project – and to us too, following the events. Each in their own way, they explained that it was not so terrible. We will still get there.
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Netanyahu began to raise funds on the live broadcast from the philanthropists in the audience at the launch center while Rivlin explained to the children who came to watch the landing that sometimes there are disappointments, but the most important thing is to forge on and try again.
How human was this small moment in which two warring leaders each comforted, in their own way, the despondent Israelis. If only this moment had stayed with us for just a little bit longer. But Justice Hanan Melcer was already prepared to announce the final election results at the same time. There too we have yet to find a unifying and inspiring experience.
Thank you Beresheet and goodbye, we will continue trying.