WOMAN OF VALOR Rona Ramon, the founder of the Ramon Foundation named in memory of her husband, Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the Colombia Space Shuttle tragedy in 2003 and the mother of IAF pilot Asaf Ramon, who was killed in an F-16 training accident in 2009, died on December 17 of cancer at the age of 54. She established the Ramon Foundation in 2010 to inspire Israeli youth to strive for academic excellence and promote space education. In 2013, The Jerusalem Post honored her for being “a woman of valor” at its conference in New York, and in 2016, she lit a beacon at Israel’s Independence Day celebration in recognition of her outstanding work at the Ramon Foundation. She is survived by her parents, Gila and Yisrael, and three children, Yiftah, Tal and Noa. “Ilan and Asaf touched the skies and Rona touched our hearts,” said President Reuven Rivlin. GIVAT ASAF ATTACK Staff-Sgt. Yovel Moryosef, 20, of Ashkelon and Sgt. Yosef Cohen, 19, both members of the Netzah Yehuda battalion in the IDF, were killed at the Givat Asaf junction in the Binyamin region on December 13 when a Palestinian gunman got out of his car and shot at them. Another soldier was seriously wounded in the attack. Three days later, another soldier from the Kfir Brigade was stabbed by a Palestinian man at an IDF post near Beit El, and was said to be in stable condition at Hadassah Medical Center. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also confirmed by the cabinet as defense minister that day, vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. ISRAELI ELECTIONS Israel will hold national elections on April 9, according to the statement issued on December 24, 2018, by the heads of the political parties in the current coalition. “Out of national and budgetary responsibility, the leaders of the coalition parties decided unanimously to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections at the beginning of April after a four year term,” the statement said. The move came amid a crisis over legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox citizens, which the coalition under Prime Minister Netanyahu did not have the majority to pass in the Knesset by January 15, the deadline set by the Supreme Court.AUSTRALIAN RECOGNITION Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at the Sydney Institute on December 15 that his country recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but said it would not move its embassy there yet. “We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final-status determination,” he said. The announcement was met with disappointment by Israel and anger by the Palestinian Authority.AIRBNB REVERSAL Airbnb’s on again/off again “settler” boycott took a strange twist on December 18, when one of its top executives, Chris Lehane, took the unusual step of traveling over the Green Line to visit the Barkan Industrial Park. He was part of a group of Airbnb officials in Israel to reexamine the company’s November decision not to list vacation rentals in Jewish settlements. Airbnb’s press office issued a statement that while it opposed BDS, it had not rescinded its boycott, as Israeli press reports had claimed. BERESHEET CAPSULE SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries announced in December that they would launch a spacecraft named Beresheet (Genesis) to the moon in early 2019. The spacecraft will carry a digitized time capsule containing, inter alia, Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Bible, a photograph of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s pioneer astronaut, and pictures drawn by Israeli children. Most of the funding came from private donors, including SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn, Sylvan Adams and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.