My word: Reaching for the moon and the coddiwomple conundrum

Israel’s spacecraft, Beresheet, has a definite aim – a moon landing, scheduled for April 11.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel’s first spacecraft designed to land on the moon is prepared for launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 21 (photo credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel’s first spacecraft designed to land on the moon is prepared for launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 21
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOE SKIPPER)
Coddiwomple. There, I’ve written it. Sometimes you come across a word that is too good to ignore. It’s hard to casually drop the verb “coddiwomple” into conversation – believe me, I have been trying for a couple of months – on the other hand, it’s a pity to let it go to waste.
According to the definition submitted anonymously to Merriam-Webster online, “Coddiwomple” means “to travel in a purposeful manner toward an uncertain destination.” Some definitions use “vague destination” instead.
The word seems to have started broadly circulating in 2017. I only discovered it by chance at the end of last year when I was googling something. (Is a Google search the equivalent of coddiwompling in cyberspace?) It’s been hard to get it out of my mind, so I thought I’d pass it on.
Ruminating on coddiwompling, I came to the conclusion that it can be both a positive and a negative trait. Travelers with time on their hands can gain from coddiwompling – taking the scenic route and seeing where it and life takes you.
Israel’s spacecraft, Beresheet, has a definite aim – a moon landing, scheduled for April 11. It was launched with much fanfare last Thursday, but while the destination is not vague, its voyage is full of uncertainties.
I’m looking forward to seeing Beresheet’s first “selfies” from  the moon’s surface, but like most people tracking the small module, I realize that it might not all go smoothly and it mightn’t even reach its destination. Reports that it was “blinded by the sun’s rays” were disappointing (and I’m trying not to anthropomorphize a metal container.)
Few Israelis who witnessed the journey of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, in 2003 can forget the juxtaposition of national pride as we saw images of him making kiddush, blessing the wine, on a Friday night in the Columbia and then learning that he had perished along with the rest of the crew as the spaceship disintegrated on its return to Earth. Even in a country like Israel where swinging from one extreme emotion to another is part of the national pysche, that was an exceptional high and low.
Beresheet’s mission, should it succeed, is to provide data on the moon’s magnetic properties. What’s the point? It’s not yet fully clear. You never know what can be done with knowledge until you have it. The findings could lead to exciting possibilities relevant to health, science and the environment that we cannot yet imagine.
Beresheet (Genesis) is a joint endeavor of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, with most of the $100-million funding coming from private donors, including billionaire philanthropist Morris Kahn, Sami Sagol, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, Gloria and Harvey Kaylie, the Parasol Foundation Trust, Nancy and Steven Grant, and Sylvan Adams.
All are proud of the fact that, if successful, Israel will be only the fourth nation in the world to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the former USSR, the US and China.
Kahn, chairman of SpaceIL, who donated more than $40 million to the project , told The Jerusalem Post’s Yafit Ovadia as they watched the launch, “It gave one a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It’s beautiful to watch this fantastic project and the planning that goes into it… to see this work in action was really exciting.”
I, however, agree with the warning that three-time NASA astronaut Scott Kelly told Ovadia when he visited Israel for Space Week at the beginning of the year. Instead of looking forward to possibly relocating to Mars someday, he encouraged people to concentrate on preserving this planet, as “it’s the only one we have.”
The irony of Israel launching a lunar mission at a time when the new Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway travels no further than between the capital and Ben-Gurion Airport has not been lost on local satirists, stand-up artists and others. Most Israelis would find it more convenient to reach Tel Aviv quickly by train than to reach for the moon.
CODDIWOMPLING IS not a healthy habit for national leaders. Too often we see those who are meant to be in charge, charging off – destination unclear. The UK is still grappling with the possible consequences of the Brexit deal. Former British prime minister David Cameron coddiwompled on that. Big time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to be so focused on a target (a characteristic he shares with other former commanders in elite units) that when he won the 1996 elections, I wrote a profile on him titled “From A to Bibi.” Ahead of the upcoming polls, however, it seems that most party leaders have gone down with a severe case of coddiwompling combined with election fever.
Former chiefs-of-staffs Benny Gantz, Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon and Gabi Ashkenazi banded together with low-ranking but not humble journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid to create the Blue and White Party. Their common goal is their desperate desire to remove Netanyahu. They set out in a purposeful manner, with slogans and mantras, but seem to have only a vague idea of how to achieve their aim – and what to do if they do reach the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street. The rotation agreement between Gantz and Lapid, who plan on switching places as future premier after Gantz has the first two years in the post, seems ill-conceived. There’s a reason that the end of the Shimon Peres-Yitzhak Shamir national unity government and rotation in 1990 is known as the “Stinking Maneuver.”
Five weeks is a long time in Israeli politics. Tzipi Livni dropped out from the rotation agreement with Isaac (Buji) Herzog the day before the last elections, after they had combined their Labor and Hatnua parties to form the Zionist Union. A lot can still happen on the way to the election booth.
Counting the figures ahead of the final results is always precarious, but it seems Netanyahu still has a better chance of creating the necessary coalition majority bloc. It’s hard to imagine the ultra-Orthodox parties, let alone the right-wing lists, opting for a government headed by Gantz and Lapid. The Arab parties, too, are not likely to recommend that President Reuven Rivlin ask a list headed by three former chiefs of staff to create the next government.
But Netanyahu cannot rely on these suppositions alone. That’s why he acted to get far-Right Otzma to join up with Bayit Yehudi. (Note, he didn’t want them to run with his own party.) Does the end justify the means when coddiwompling? Very little can excuse working to bring the banned Kahanist list back into the Knesset under a different name. No politician who refers to Jewish terrorist mass murderer Baruch Goldstein as a “kadosh,” (a holy man) should be representing the State of Israel. But, at the risk of being accused of “whataboutism” – another word currently doing the rounds – neither do I think that the Arab party Balad does anybody proud. Its former leader Azmi Bishara skipped to Qatar rather than face charges of treason for passing information to Hezbollah in wartime; former MK Haneen Zoabi is well known for her appearance on the Mavi Marmara, trying to break the blockade on Gaza, and for justifying Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians; and another former parliamentarian, Basel Ghattas, is currently serving a jail sentence for smuggling phones to Palestinian security prisoners, giving a new meaning to the term “cell phone.” Incidentally, Palestinian prisoners are threatening to go on hunger strike after the Prison Service jammed reception to the phones they’re not meant to have.
Whatever government is ultimately formed, it is likely to face the challenges of Donald Trump’s still-uncertain “Deal of the Century,” which could easily turn out to be a case of setting out on a path to the unknown, another example of you know what.
But enough digressing and rambling. Blame it on coddiwompling.