(Mark Neyman/GPO)
Eytan Stibbe

“We are watching history unfold in front of our eyes, seeing where humankind can reach,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog.


President Isaac Herzog spoke Sunday evening via video link with Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe, who arrived at the International Space Station over the weekend as part of the Rakia Mission.

The Rakia Mission launched Stibbe to the International Space Station as part of the Ax-1 crew. The international mission was initiated and led by Axiom Space, an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Houston, Texas.

During his 200 hours in Space, Stibbe, one of the pioneers of the private space industry who paid for his voyage, will conduct scientific and technological experiments, produce educational content for Israeli schoolchildren in Hebrew, and display and create Israeli art in space.

Herzog said that “during these difficult times on the ground, this project, the exciting launch and experience that the whole House of Israel is watching, is a point of light in the sky. These are moments that fill us with inspiration and excitement.”

“Certainly in days when we have seen so many points of darkness and pain here in Tel Aviv, this is also an opportunity to console the bereaved families, to express our pain and to say, life continues with full force. We do not surrender to terror or anything else. Nothing can challenge our existence here or our commitment,” he declared.

“We look up at the sky and know that there is a representative of the State of Israel up there, a representative of humanity, and also a representative of our people, the Jewish People. And this representative is working at the International Space Station, reading Hebrew poetry, conducting dozens of fascinating experiments that we will yet discuss—this is a supremely important occasion,” he told Stibbe.

Prayer for the State of Israel

During the conversation, Stibbe surprised Herzog and showed him the copy of the Prayer for the State of Israel that the President gave him before his departure.

Herzog and Stibbe then spoke with students taking part in a variety of space and science initiatives.

“We are watching history unfold in front of our eyes, seeing where humankind can reach,” said Herzog. “It’s fascinating to see the power of man and his strength, large and small. That is what is great about nature and humanity.

Stibbe noted that “this is the first time that we are at the International Space Station with the Israeli flag. This is very moving. The wonderful prayer, the Prayer for the State of Israel, composed by the President’s grandfather, is with me here.”

He shared that it takes around two days to adjust to the different flow of liquids, to the feeling of hunger and thirst, which is very different from on Earth.

“This is really exciting, and I was happy to see you! I am sure we’ll share many experiences after I return to Earth soon,” he added.

Stibbe, 66, is an IAF Colonel who served for 43 years and participated in dozens of operations. He is considered Israel’s second astronaut.

Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon launched into space in 2003 but was killed on his journey back to earth when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere, the result of damage to the spacecraft.

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