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"The Mission Has Not Failed"

An idea for a science fiction movie. Excerpted from Scream Queens of the Dead Sea (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2004)

Gilad Elbom

29 Oct. 2004

Finally, after four thousand years of humility and humiliation, after four hundred years of enslavement in Egypt, after forty years of wandering in the desert, the underlings are given a chance to create their very own Icarus: the first Israeli in space, the pioneer Hebrew astronaut. So why send a scientist or an astrophysicist when they can send a soldier? And not just a soldier. A pilot. A colonel in the Israeli Air Force.

Background material on the brave starblazer: bombed Iraq in 1981, bombed Lebanon in 1982. Unfortunately, we don’t know how many Palestinian refugee camps he bombed. For some reason, probably because of self-hating defeatist propaganda, dropping bombs on houses owned by relatives of potential terrorists is considered now a shameful crime rather than an act of pure self-defense. Or maybe it’s just that such acts have been reduced to a daily routine that diminishes their uplifting effect on the national morale. Dead Arabs don’t make us happy anymore. We need to put a Jew on Mars to elevate our spirits in such hard times.

The Israeli ambassador to the United States describing the liftoff: “We had deep, beautiful, blue skies, and then with the smoke coming in huge bursts, it was very, very moving. After all, these are our national colors.” Of course, when you make the right choice of national colors, the world sings your glory. Ours are the colors of life itself: the sky, the clouds, the sea, the doves, the beautiful girls with the ivory skin and the indigo eyes. Theirs, on the other hand, are the colors of death: the black of the mandatory veils, the red of the spilled blood, the green of the rotting flesh.

But the story is not about the astronaut. More important than the man in space is his hand baggage: a drawing by a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy who perished at Auschwitz. How can the mighty Jews travel light when they were chosen to bear the eternal burden of bringing light to the nations? The astronaut doesn’t make it back to earth, but that’s not the point. The death of the drawing and its carrier is not a tragicomic twist of fate but a carefully planned, well-executed climax. The purpose of the triumphant debut Jewish space voyage is not to land safely in Florida but to explode over Palestine, Texas, in an orgasmic display of emotional pornography: burnt body parts and Holocaust memorabilia raining from the heavens on peaceful redneck communities, washing America and Israel in a glorious torrent of human debris and national mourning.

Three months after the crash, sorting through the wreckage left by the spaceship’s failed attempt to return to earth, rescue teams uncover a metal container. Inside the container, alive and well in their petri dishes, thousands of worms from a scientific experiment conducted aboard the spacecraft are found, each slightly bigger than a pinhead. Commenting on the unexpected survivors, the president commends the dead astronauts for making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of mankind, while several Islamic organizations say the recent discovery proves once again that megalomania will be outlived by the maggots. Disaster specialists, assisted by hundreds of volunteers from Texas and New Mexico, have also located the microfiche copy of the Old Testament the Israeli astronaut was carrying in his breast pocket when the spaceship disintegrated.

But the mission has not failed. On the contrary. It succeeds in delivering a strong and clear message to all those who doubt our right or ability to rule the cosmos: now that we’ve conquered all the land we could get our hands on, it’s time to move on to outer space. Now that Jewish suffering has been turned into a successful marketing strategy, it’s time to take it to other planets.

And while other nations have been wasting their time replanting uprooted olive trees or standing in line for a special travel permit to see the doctor in the next village, God’s people have managed to manufacture a man who can see the world from God’s point of view. And not just a man. A Jew. A real Jew, the kind of Jew that understands that when the Bible promised us the Land of Milk and Honey, it actually meant the Milky Way.

The Jewish Luke Skywalker making his last transmission to earth before his spacecraft falls apart: “I saw Jerusalem from space.”

Which seems to be the only safe distance to look at my hometown from.


Gilad Elbom was born in Jerusalem in 1968. He studied English and Arabic at the Hebrew University, then moved to Los Angeles to attend the graduate writing program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Dakota. His debut novel, Scream Queens of the Dead Sea (buy from an independent book shop, buy from Amazon), was recently published by Thunder's Mouth PressThunder's Mouth Press.