Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hawking helps out

Stephen Hawking, holder of the Cambridge mathematics chair that once was Isaac Newton's, visited Israel last month.

In a program organized by the British Council, Hawking met with students, scientists and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He lectured in Jerusalem and answered questions on a popular Israeli television interview show. He talked with Palestinian students and spoke in Ramallah.

One item that does not appear on the official schedule released by the British Council is Hawking's starring role in a public-service television announcement aimed at raising awareness of efforts to help disabled people in Israel.

Hawking delivers the message in his familiar synthesized voice:

"In 20 years, Man may be able to live on the moon.

"In 40 years, we may get to Mars.

"During the next 400 years we may be able to leave the solar system and head for the stars.

"But meanwhile ---

"---meanwhile, we would like to be able to go to the supermarket, the cinema, and restaurants."

Short and to the point, less than 40 seconds, it began appearing on Israeli television channels last week.

You can watch it at YouTube or via the site of Access Israel, the non-profit group for which Hawking made the video.

The video results from an initiative of Geller-Nessis Leo Burnett, a Tel Aviv agency which approached Hawking and asked him to help out on behalf of Access Israel.

Tali Milchberg, art director of the project, said Hawking's script was Israeli-written. A local photographer made the still pictures of Hawking that appear in the video.

After the taping, the agency published a newspaper advertisement stating, "Thank you, Professor Hawking."

"One need not lose hope," Hawking has written on his own website. He has lived for more than 40 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disabling disease which so far has no cure.

He discussed this and other personal matters in a television interview with Yair Lapid on Israel Channel 2, also available on YouTube.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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