For me, the journey to the International Space Station is yet another step in my ambition, which has been a driving force since my youth - to make the best contribution I possibly can toward world peace. Sadly, the very term “world peace” has been eroded, some might say it has become no more than a mere cliché. This was not the case in the house I grew up in. My mother, a widow and a Holocaust survivor, endured the war years in hiding. My father, Ehud, was born in Indonesia. He was a Dutch citizen who served and fought as a Dutch soldier in Indonesia. He was captured and taken prisoner of war by the Japanese in 1941, and remained in captivity until World War II ended in 1945.
Both of them taught me that we - the Jewish people living in Israel - have to show determination, to be willing to defend ourselves, to fight back the enemy at all costs, while at the same time we have got to be able to forgive, to contain and also to ask for forgiveness where necessary, and most important of all - to make the tireless search for peace, through providing an environment of equality, brotherhood and sharing - the first and foremost of our noble goals.
The Japanese were fearless, cruel fighters. We need go no further than their attack on the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II. Ultimately, they paid a horrific price in the form of two atomic bombs dropped by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However once that terrible war was over, the Japanese chose to reconcile with the Western world. As a token of goodwill for peace and brotherhood among nations, they created the “Peace Bell”, which was cast from coins collected from representatives of 60 different nations. The words “Long Live Absolute World Peace“are engraved on the bell " (世界絶対平和萬歳), and it was donated to the UN back in 1954.
There are replicas of the bell in approximately 20 countries worldwide, with Israel being one of them. In December 2017 we brought the Peace Bell to the City of Lod. This was not an arbitrary choice. The goal was to reinforce Lod’s potential, to transform it into a messenger of brotherhood among different communities and religions for the greater good of all residents, whoever and wherever they may be.
In my high altitude flights, I have looked out far beyond our borders. I have seen vast deserts, high, snow-capped mountains, places I have been itching to travel to. When flying over the center of our country, I could see four capital cities at a glance - Beirut, Damascus, Amman and of course Jerusalem.
In my flight to the International Space Station, I am going to take with me a scaled-down version of the bell, which has been printed in Israel using a 3D printer. With this, a symbol of international peace and brotherhood, is going to be placed on board the International Space Station, whose construction signaled the consolidation of cooperation between the superpowers - the Soviet Union (today’s Russia) and the United States, with Japan and European countries participating. The Space Station has been assembled from parts that were built in different countries, which joined forces to create a space collaboration puzzle:
And the scaled-down model of the Peace Bell, within this wonderous flying system, will chime peacefully, sending out its message: “long live absolute world peace”. And this is what I wish us all on this New Year’s Eve, 5782.