Jerusalem Welcomes the International Space Community Amidst Wave of Violence.
Jerusalem, Israel's capital, welcomed the International space community for the opening ceremony of the 66th International Astronautical Congress this morning. Over 2000 delegates from 58 countries are represented including leaders of many national space agencies.
The opening ceremony featured several speeches from dignitaries including the Minister of Science of Israel, Ofir Akunis and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Of note, both the mayor and Minister spoke on the recent wave of violence which later in the evening hit a little too close for comfort for the delegates as an Arab man stabbed and tried to grab the gun of an Israel Defense Force soldier just 200 meters from the International Convention Center on a bus while the welcome reception was underway. The attacker was killed in the skirmish, which also lightly injured one other person.
Prior to the evening attack, Minister Akunis told delegates "this gathering is a remarkable salute to the advancement of science and the space industry here in Israel. This conference in Jerusalem at this time is the ultimate proof that no violence or terror will defeat us. The best response that we can offer today is through this demonstration through thousands of guests filling the halls of this conference and the streets of Jerusalem."
During his speech Minister Akunis made a point of saying Israel is willing to work with the International space community and that while many of its neighbours flounder, Israel is consistently making progress and improving the quality of life of all of its citizens, including Israeli Arabs.
During the entertainment phase of the opening ceremonies the audience was treated to a visual montage of its history and accomplishments. This was followed by a short musical program from a variety of performers.
Following the opening ceremony the exhibit area was opened up with a VIP tour as delegates explored and networked.
At a noon press conference in an overflowing room, Buzz Aldrin took center stage and regaled the audience with tales of his exploits and took questions from media before helping to announce a new Israeli Foundation geared towards promoting interest in students in space education. The initiative was put together by the Israel Space Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Science and the Heinlein Foundation. The Foundation presented three original space suits which will travel among Israeli schools.