Written by Fray Hochstein, on behalf of Team ROI
Space may or may not be the final frontier, but it’s definitely where Kfir is headed. Programming since age six, Kfir naturally gravitated to the IDF’s prestigious 8200 intelligence unit, where, as he says, he was “working in cyber security before the phrase was even coined.” Nine years ago Kfir saw a post on Facebook asking who was interested in landing a spacecraft on the moon. He soon found himself sitting in a bar with two other engineers, writing diagrams and equations on paper napkins. The meeting resulted in the founding of SpaceIL, which recently attempted to make Israel the third country to land a spacecraft on the moon. While the spacecraft failed to land in one piece, the team managed to successfully accomplish the lunar capture maneuver, making Israel only the seventh country in the world to do so. The experience of SpaceIL was inspiring, and included the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and tens of companies and organizations who joined together to take part in this daring Israeli effort.
When the project was first taking off, Kfir went to meet with Sandy Cardin from the Schusterman Foundation, to ask if they would be interested in helping fund SpaceIL. Sandy encouraged him to apply to the ROI Summit. “Eight years ago people in the startup world hadn’t really heard about ROI. It’s much different now. But then, it was all new to me. The experience of the Summit was amazing and honestly quite humbling. You know the saying ‘people may not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel’? Well the feeling I got from the Summit was just remarkable – I felt supported and encouraged, and that everyone there was looking to help make this dream of mine happen.”
Photo credit: Netanel Tobias
Kfir, whose family is from Morocco, grew up in Israel in a fairly secular family and had never been particularly connected to either his Moroccan or Jewish identities. Being a part of ROI changed this. “ROI helped me understand my relationship to Judaism, and to the Jewish people scattered all over the world. It made me think, for the first time, about how I fit in to the bigger Jewish picture. I also went with ROI to Morocco, and that was incredibly impactful for me, to reconnect with that aspect of my heritage.” The experience of ROI also changed how Kfir approached the goals of SpaceIL. “I understood that this was much bigger than I had realized and that we could, and needed, to use SpaceIL to connect between Jewish people around the world.”
The Schusterman Foundation and ROI have been a big part of the SpaceIL project. Noa Margalit, an ROIer who Kfir met on the trip to Morocco, ended up producing the shuttle launch event in Florida and continues to work for SpaceIL part time. Kfir also collaborated with Margot Stern and Yael Schuster, two ROIers from StellarNova, a startup that seeks to inspire children of all ages in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), on The Little Spacecraft, a children’s book about the project.
“The trust that exists between me and the people in the ROI network and at Schusterman, is what has enabled so many things to happen. Lynn and Stacy (Schusterman) are such great people, who have showered me with such warmth and openness. You really feel that ROI is like a family. A big, varied, inspiring family.”