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To immortality and eternal youth

The author of the article, Dr. Zvi Barel from the Technion, was invited to a scientific conference to mark the 100th anniversary of Vern's death, being the internet link connecting Vern enthusiasts around the world

Zvi Harel

Twelve saxophones played the last notes from "Chant Sacre" by Hector Berlioz (1844). Jean-Michel Verne, great-great-grandson of Jules Verne, stands next to the writer's grave. The marble figure that reaches out its hand to the sky, "to immortality and eternal youth" is transformed from the place. The dignitaries began to pass in front of the tomb one by one, and I was among them. All this happened at 10:38 local time, on the morning of Thursday, March 24, 2005, at the "La Madeleine" cemetery in the city of Amiens in France. It was the highlight of our visit to France on the occasion of the Jules Verne World Cup, a moment that will remain with me forever.

Our visit to France began about a week before, when we landed in Paris, and boarded a taxi that was waiting for us to drive us to the city of Amiens. Two cities joined together to hold a series of events in memory of Jules Verne during the centennial year of his death: the city of Nantes, where the writer was born on February 8, 1828, and the city of Amiens, where he lived from 1871 until his death on March 24, 1905. One week, which carried The title "World Cup Jules Verne", will be dedicated to Jules Verne as a world-class author. Jules Verne's International Research Center in Amiens organized a gathering to which experts from 15 countries were invited, so that they would talk about the relationship between the writer and their countries and report on the latest research innovations in this field. In addition to the conference discussions, we followed Verne in all the places where he lived and wrote, starting in the city of Amiens, the town of La Crotois, from where he set out on cruises on his cruise ships, the city of Nantes, and ending in the capital, Paris, where the Eiffel Tower is admired in the exclusive restaurant named after the author.

I myself was invited to the conference first and foremost due to my activity to promote connections between followers of Jules Verne throughout the world through the Internet, and only later was I asked to tell about what is happening in Israel, but I was able to present both matters.

I first encountered Verne's books as a child, when I received his book "Two Years on a Deserted Island - the events of a group of students on their vacation" as a gift, and then, as a teenager, when I bought his books in a French pocket edition, and learned the French language while reading them. Later, 25 years ago, I made my first pilgrimage to Verne's grave. As a compulsive collector, my house was filled with Verne's books in various languages, as well as many memorabilia related to him such as stamps, coins, postcards and even a perfume called "Filias", as the name of the hero of his well-known book "Around the World in Eighty Days". I founded my website, called "Jules Verne Collection of Zvi Harel", about ten years ago. Benny Gilad, who was about 19 years old at the time, an artist and an architecture student at the Technion, established his own experimental site at the time, and intended to turn it into a virtual gallery, where surfers from all over the world could come and view his works of art, which in their creation combined many scientific elements, similar to Verne's combination of literature and science . Due to the magnitude of the disaster, Gilad died of a sudden cardiac arrest after only a few months. Since then, I have dedicated my website to his memory, and everyone who surfs is asked to take a moment to visit and view Gilead's works.

At the base of the website is an international discussion group, "The Jules Verne Forum", which was founded in 1996 and had eight members (seven Americans and one Israeli), and today it has about 300 members from 40 countries. I have never met most of them face to face, and with some of them I met for the first time, with great mutual excitement, only during the week of the "World Cup".

The site is an extensive platform for international cooperation: a collection of "Frequently Asked Questions about Jules Verne" has been translated by the forum members into 12 languages. It features full texts of many of his writings in many languages, and even a collection of university research papers contributed by their authors, as well as a spectacular display of my stamp collection, and more.

Here, finally, the connection to Israel was made: in September 2004, on the occasion of the appearance of a new translation by Vern in an edition intended for adults called "Dr. Ochs' Mirage Vision", an article by Ariana Melamed, "20,000 miles under the dust" was published in "Yediot Ahronoth" . She interviewed me, and in the interview I told her readers about my website and the events to mark the centenary year. At the same time I was also interviewed on the radio about it. The interviews bore the fruit of rejoicing: already in December, during the week of Hanukkah, the first event took place at the "Seven Stars" mall in Herzliya, under the title "Around the World in Eight Days - The Science Behind the Legend". Esther and Akiva Arbel from Efrat taught the children, with the help of simple props, the scientific principles hidden behind Vern's adventure stories. Since then, with the encouragement of the Institutes of French Culture and the Ministry of Education, a series of similar actions began in different cities in Israel, with the first being held these days at the Science Center in Kneam. Finally, two weeks before we left for France, we participated in the conference "On Science and Imagination", which is unique to Warren at the interdisciplinary center of Midrash Sde Boker.

Dr. Zvi Harel, Faculty of Mathematics, Technion

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