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Israel's First Moon Mission Set for Florida Liftoff on Thursday

By Reuters

The unmanned robotic explorer named Beresheet—Hebrew for the word "Genesis"—is due for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop a Falcon 9 rocket launched by the California-based entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX company. The 1,290-pound (585 kg), dishwasher-sized lander was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished almost entirely by private donors. If the launch is successful, Beresheet is due to arrive on the near side of the moon in April following a two-month journey through 4 million miles (6.5 million km) of space. SpaceIL said they hoped Beresheet will help inspire Israel's defense-focused space program to pursue more science missions by way of an "Apollo effect," referring to the manned lunar exploration program that became NASA's chief purpose in the 1960s and early '70s. The United States, the former Soviet Union and China are the only three nations to date to have achieved controlled "soft" landings of spacecraft on the lunar surface. The US Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon—the only ones yet achieved—between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more unmanned landings combined by the United States and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang'e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon. "This is the beginning of Israel's story in deep space ... whether this succeeds or fails," SpaceIL president and billionaire high-tech developer Morris Kahn, who invested $44 million of his own money into the Beresheet project, told Reuters. The Falcon 9 rocket will thrust Beresheet into a "long and complex" Earth orbit where it will spend roughly five weeks gradually widening its orbit until close enough to enter the moon's gravitational field. From there, the spacecraft will execute a series of maneuvers to reach its destination between the landing sites of Apollo 15 and 17 by mid-April. During a mission slated to last just two to three days on the moon, Beresheet will use on-board instruments to photograph the landing site, measure the moon's magnetic field and send all the data back to SpaceIL's Israel-based ground station Yehud, via NASA's Deep Space Network, SpaceIL vice president Yigal Harel told Reuters. If successful, Beresheet will end up as the prototype for a series of future moon landing missions jointly planned by IAI and Germany's OHB System on behalf of the European Space Agency. SpaceIL has no plans for future explorations of its own beyond Beresheet and "will not continue after this mission," Harel said.

German President Lauds Iran on Revolution that Seeks Israel's Destruction

By the Jerusalem Post]

The president of Germany Frank Walter-Steinmeier sent a congratulatory telegram to Iran's mullah regime in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in the name of federal republic's citizens. Germany's largest paper Bild reported on Wednesday "On the 40th anniversary of that day, friendly greetings from Berlin arrived in Tehran by telegram: the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier sends 'Congratulations' on the occasion of the national holiday, 'also in the name of my compatriots."' The congratulatory note to a regime that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state and the United States of America has raised eyebrows and unleashed criticism on social media. The prominent German-Iranian dissident and public intellectual Nasrin Amirsedghi wrote on her Twitter feed that "Steinmeier congratulates the Terror-Mullahs." Bild wrote "Mass executions and torture; the brutal persecution of women, minorities, and the opposition; the installation of an Islamist terror state that threatens to annihilate Israel, that covers the Middle East with its militias, and that denies the Holocaust. All of this started in Iran on 11 February, 1979, the day of the 'Islamic Revolution,' when the mullahs seized power in Tehran." Steinmeier, who as then-foreign minister previously allowed former Iranian deputy foreign minister Muhammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, in 2008, to call for Israel's destruction and deny the Holocaust at a German foreign ministry event near Berlin's Holocaust memorial, told Iran's president Hassan Rouhani that Germany is doing "everything in its power to guarantee the maintenance and continued implementation of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)." The Bild article by Antje Schippmann noted: "There is not a word of criticism concerning Tehran's murderous attacks in Europe or its billions for financing terror groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah." The article said: "Instead, the telegram praises the bilateral relations and promises to 'intensely maintain' the dialogue. Only together, is it possible to 'overcome the crises and conflicts."' wrote the president, who is a member of Germany's social democratic party. Schippmann wrote: To conclude, he [Steinmeier] encouraged the regime to also listen to the critical voices in your country. "A suggestion that seems absurd given the thousands of political detainees in torture prisons, including human rights lawyers, journalists, and environmental activists," she wrote. The Free Democratic foreign policy Frank Müller-Rosentritt told the paper that Steinmeier's praise for the Iranian regime that "For our friends in Israel, who are subject to Iran's permanent threats of annihilation, this must feel like a slap in the face." The prominent Palestinian-Israeli psychologist and author Ahmad Mansour, who works to combat radical Islam and anti-Semitism in Germany, wrote on his Twitter feed that "the picture confirms my impression that politics [in Germany] does not take the fight against anti-Semitism seriously."

Israeli Official: Netanyahu-Putin Meeting in Moscow Delayed

By VOA News

An Israeli government official says a planned meeting in Moscow between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been postponed. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday because of the sensitivity of the matter, says the meeting was delayed in agreement. The two will have a telephone call Thursday and schedule a new meeting soon. Netanyahu and Putin have been recently holding regular consultations to coordinate operations in war-torn Syria. The meeting was to be the first since a Russian plane was shot down in Syria by anti-aircraft fire. Israeli media report the delay is due to Netanyahu's domestic political concerns, saying he wants to oversee mergers in his nationalistic camp before a Thursday night deadline to submit party lists for the upcoming April election.

Women Soldiers to Get Free Access to 'Morning After' Pills

By YnetNews

A number of years ago the Health Ministry's health services basket committee authorized the free availability of "morning after" contraception pills for youngsters, under the age of 20, after the committee found that some woman may avoid using contraceptives after having unprotected sex, due to the cost. However, it was then revealed that female IDF recruits lack the ability to take the contraceptive pills within the required time for them to be effective. Because a health cooperative does not insure soldiers during their service, they must make an appointment at one of six special clinics across the country, but by the time of their appointment, it is generally too late for the pill to work, leaving them only with the option of paying NIS 100 ($2.65) for the pill at a public pharmacy. But the IDF and the Defense Ministry have recently changed their policy, and female recruits can now receive the contraceptive pill within a matter of hours of having unprotected sex by calling a support hotline, available all year round, including weekends and holidays. A soldier who calls during the week will immediately receive a prescription for the pill either by email or through her unit's doctor and she can take it to the nearest civilian pharmacy to receive it free of charge. Soldiers who call the hotline on weekends receive authorization to purchase the pill from the pharmacy, and can later submit the receipt to their unit to receive a refund. The policy is designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies among soldiers during their mandatory IDF service. Morning-after pills are generally effective up to 120 hours after having unprotected sex. Recently, the Health Ministry ruled that girls under the age of 14 can receive the pill without the need for a prescription after discovering that many turned to illicit methods in order to obtain the medication.

The Israeli Vampire Series `Juda' is Coming to Hulu

By Jessica Price (Alma)
Imagine a TV series that's basically "Snatch" meets "Blade," only it's also super Jewish and the main character occasionally gets into discussions of classical Hebrew grammar with the mysterious rabbi who plays the Giles to his Buffy. I've just described "Juda," an Israeli vampire TV series I've been obsessed with ever since I found out about it roughly a year ago, and which Hulu has just acquired the rights to stream. I managed to obtain all eight episodes (we don't really need to go into how, do we?) and loved it so much I spent hours translating and captioning it so my non-Hebrew speaking friends could watch it with me (HMU, Hulu, I've already done all the work!). They agreed with me that it was the best vampire TV series they'd ever watched, although that may have been a ruse to get me to untie them from the chairs. Anyway. Remember that one time Buffy brandished a cross at a vamp and he was like, "Sorry, I'm Jewish," and everyone lost their minds and was like, "YAY, A JEWISH VAMPIRE!"? I'm pretty sure the creators of this series were like, "Yeah, why aren't there any Jewish vampires?" and set out to answer that question. Combining elements of crime capers, body horror, comedy, music videos, classic noir, and superhero stories, "Juda" is actually sort of indescribable — one of the most original things I've seen on TV. According to Variety, it will premiere on Hulu early this year — and the original distribution company also sold the rights for an American remake — so without further ado, here are seven reasons you need to watch it as soon as they start streaming it (and maybe hit them up on Twitter to get on that).

  1. Exquisite comic timing: The showrunner, writer and eponymous star of "Juda," Tzion Baruch, is a comedian and it shows. Comedy succeeds or fails on timing, and the timing of everything — from the rhythmic, Guy Ritchie-like visual editing to the 1940s screwball comedy-patter dialogue and reaction shots — is surgically precise. While the show isn't a comedy, its hapless poker-player main character's journey from petty criminal to deadly superhero has a ton of funny bits and, like the best comedy, it's also punctuated with genuinely moving moments.
  2. Gorgeous, haunting animation: After Juda's life-changing encounter with a beautiful femme fatale (emphasis on the fatale) in Romania, a rabbi tells him the story of the last time there was a Jewish vampire (WWII, natch). The flashbacks are done in eerily beautiful black-and-white animation with carefully chosen spots of color (perhaps an homage to "Schindler's List"). What could have been the usual corny, clichéd vampire flashback scene to characters in badly done period dress and stilted accents takes on the dignity of art (with Juda's irreverent interruptions — "Waitaminute, DRACULA Dracula?" — keeping the mood from getting too heavy).
  3. A killer soundtrack: I've watched this series with quite a few musician and film industry friends, all of whom had the same question: "How did they afford all this music?" From Johnny Cash to perfectly produced Metallica, Jay-Z and Eurythmics covers, the soundtrack is a whirlwind of great music. (Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" is, hilariously, a plot point.) The score also sounds incredibly high-end, involving a lot of subtle, sophisticated riffs on relevant movie moments.
  4. Non-toxic masculinity: Let's get this out of the way: The characters aren't saints (you'll level up your Israeli profanity lexicon by watching the pilot alone), and the series isn't going to win any awards for women's representation (female characters other than the two love interests are in short supply). But a scene in which a frightened Juda can't sleep, and his best friend Asher spoons him and promises to protect him, is just one among a plethora of examples of affectionate male physical contact, something that American audiences could use more of.
  5. Classic high-goth European vampires: Forget vampires who have nanites in their blood, who sparkle in the sunlight, who are aliens, or who are just misunderstood. The Romanian vampire antagonists in "Juda" are descendants of Dracula and out-Underworld "Underworld" itself in their corseted, black-clad glory. Their headquarters are in catacombs accessed via a secret button in an elevator. And their leader? Sits on an actual skull throne. Suck it, "Twilight."
  6. The most Jewish heist/jailbreak ever: So your buddy's in jail, and you need to get him out before the mob has him murdered. How do you pull it off? Well, if you're Juda, you have your Hasidic friend head to the police station to replace their mezuzot and distribute books of Psalms (one of which, of course, is hollowed out so the protagonists can smuggle a weapon to their captive comrade). This is the Jewish representation we need.
  7. A rebuke to blood libel myths: The development of the vampire mythos may have been spurred by anti-Semitism, but in "Juda," Jews get to bite back. Vampire law prohibits preying on Jews, and when one of Dracula's children unwittingly breaks this law, it could spell the end for vampire kind. Jewish values insist that Juda refrain from drinking human blood and are presented throughout as the thing that prevents him from becoming a monster like his opponents. Each episode even starts with a perfectly selected quote from Jewish writings, ranging from the Torah and Talmud to the Yom Kippur liturgy. (Who knew that Esau's demand for some of that "red, red stuff" fit so perfectly into vampire lore?) Ultimately, underneath all the glitz of international poker games and seedy horror of incipient vampirism, this polyglot, witty, brash series has a big, beating Jewish heart. Hulu hasn't announced a launch date yet, but hopefully it will be soon. (If you can't wait, you can watch Episode 1, with my fan-subbed captions, on YouTube.)

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