A deep sorrow has violated the joy and excitement of the preparations for my space flight, joy I have been experiencing over recent months: Anas al-Wahwah, an 18-year old Israeli youngster, was murdered in Lod. Caught in the crossfire of a blood feud and paid for it with his life. Just like that.
I knew Anas. Ora, my wife, and I, hiked with him and his companions in the Negev. Organized for 12th-grade graduates of the Ramon Medal Program, this was a trip concluding Israel’s premiere youth leadership program. The Medal, awarded by the Ramon Foundation with the Ministries of Education and Science participating, is awarded to 15 outstanding 12th-grade graduates that have proven their leadership potential and have made an exceptional contribution toward society and the community. The students that get chosen each year, out of a pool of over 300 candidates, participate in an enriching, empowering leadership program cultivating the leadership side of their personalities while equipping them with a managerial tool kit they will find useful for leading Israeli society.
Anas was one of them. The cream of the crop. A born leader. Head and shoulders above the rest. Someone to follow. A living example of cooperation, of bringing together hearts and minds. This boy, whom everybody just loved, is not going to mentor pupils anymore, he won’t be volunteering in MDA again, he isn’t going to be studying engineering. A pointless death in a pointless feud that we, as a society, failed to prevent.
We, who have mastered space flight, who work hand in hand with the International Space Station that brings together rival superpowers, failed in trickling down this sublime cooperation to the grassroots level, to reality on the street. We have still not managed to reconcile enemies. To prevent unnecessary bloody conflict. To maintain inclusion, sharing and tolerance here, in our own tiny country. Anas worked to change this reality. His life may have been snuffed out but his mission presses on. And I know his companions are going to press on, to guide our society toward a better place. And I know we are going to push the world forward into a better future, in the sky above and on earth here below. And we will continue to dream and work, we’ll emerge from our grief to continue to pursue our dreams, dreams requiring hard work from us.
May he rest in peace.
In my next post I’ll be telling the story of the international collaboration in the Space Station. Come on in and visit.