Eytan Stibbe

Man-made borders from space

Astronaut Eytan Stibbe from the  ISS on 13 April 2022, 14:24:28 UTC
Astronaut Eytan Stibbe from the ISS on 13 April 2022, 14:24:28 UTC

“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of, let’s say 100,000 miles, their outlook would be fundamentally changed. The all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument suddenly silenced.” – Michael Collins, Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot

In the vastness of space, looking down at the Earth, it’s impossible not to feel small. Surrounded by nothing but a dark vacuum – a blue-green marble in the distance, upon which our entire civilization exists.

Adam Kall, in his article, “No Borders in Space,” (June 21, 2021), writes about how most astronauts remark on the perception of the division on Earth from space. Man made separation is far less apparent and looks more like “one whole of humanity.” He notes the invisibility of border walls and checkpoints and that, from space, sovereign states are not “conveniently colored like the maps and globes we grew up seeing in school.”

Small sliver of land

Israel itself is a small sliver of land, holding so much history of civilization within its borders. Borders which are very present from an earthly perspective, which have been created through war and fear. Necessary borders for many reasons but man-made and troublesome, nonetheless.

Reading commentary from around the world, I’m not sure that the writers often comprehend exactly how small these borders are. We’re not speaking about the immense 21,000 km Great Wall of China or the 3,000 km length of the US-Mexico border, but about the border between Israel and Gaza which is a mere 60 km, so short yet clearly visible from low Earth orbit.

Taken by Astronaut Eytan Stibbe from the ISS on 13 April 2022, 14:24:28 UTC

Cooperation, collaboration, negotiation

During my Rakia mission on board the international space station, people from countries across the globe worked side-by-side, learning from each other and sharing expertise. Cultures, languages and experiences converged to create something beautiful in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation.

Undoubtedly, that is exactly what is needed now; negotiation for cooperation and collaboration. Since October 7, when 253 people were viciously removed from their homes and forcibly taken into Gaza, I have been working with the families of those kidnapped to facilitate negotiations for the release of their loved ones.

The first efforts focused on the release of the children and their close family, through meetings with Qatari ambassadors, and senior politicians worldwide, stressing the humanitarian and vital importance of saving their lives. This campaign succeeded to bring back 112 kidnapped after 55 days.

Now, after four months, negotiations must continue to ensure that each and every one is brought home back to their families. Only then can there be serious discussion about peace in the region. 134 of our people remain in danger across the torn down man-made border, living under unimaginable conditions – many vulnerable with medical conditions needing specific attention or medication. The families, friends and the entire public are calling to prioritize their release at all costs so that they are brought home safely.

What is most vital: The kidnapped

There have been numerous ceasefire deals presented on the table from all parties involved which have been rejected each time in a vicious cycle where Hamas demands the IDF pulls out completely and Israel demands their complete surrender.

All mediators, Americans, Qataris and Egyptians, are committed to reaching a settlement, as the Prime Minister of Qatar, HE Al Thani, promised us during meetings with the families in Doha and in Washington, DC.

While it’s encouraging that talks are taking place, we must not lose sight of the most important factor – the people who are deprived of their freedom. The families of kidnapped have no choice but to wait in pain while the “powers that be” attempt to reach an agreement. Priority must be given to those with medical conditions, women and elderly, to ensure they receive the proper treatment.

And while they broker these deals across man-made borders, which seem so insignificant from space but are so prevalent down here on earth, I will continue to help the families tell their stories, so that we can Bring Them Home, NOW.

About the Author
Impact investor, philanthropist and pilot, Eytan Stibbe was the second Israeli astronaut to ever go to space. As a crew member of the Ax-1 mission, in April 2022, Eytan spent 17 days on the International Space Station. Together with the Ramon foundation and the Israeli Space Agency, a work plan was assembled and called the RAKIA mission. It included experiments in medicine, earth observation, production in space as well as educational programs and art, all under the banner “There is no dream beyond reach”.
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