Israel Resource Review 2nd Febuary, 2003


A Tribute to Ilan Ramon's Legacy
Caroline Glick
Deputy Managing Editor, The Jerusalem Post

In 1981, IAF Col. Ilan Ramon flew one of the F-16 jets that blew up the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak. In so doing he saved the country and perhaps the entire world from the specter of a nuclear holocaust.

For the past 16 days, as Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon again saved us.

This time he was not armed with a payload of bombs. This time Ramon set off for outer space on the Columbia space shuttle, armed with a picture of the Earth as seen from the moon drawn by a Jewish boy in Theresienstadt concentration camp, a Torah scroll from Bergen Belsen, a microfiche copy of the Bible, the national flag, a kiddush cup, and the dreams and hopes of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

Ramon saved us this time not by clearing our skies of the threat of nuclear attack, but by reminding us of who we are and of what we can accomplish if we only have faith in ourselves.

Ramon made clear at every opportunity that he went to space, not simply as a citizen of the State of Israel, but as a Jew. As the representative of the Jewish people he recited kiddush on Friday night. As a Jew he said Shema Yisrael as the space shuttle orbited over Jerusalem. As a Jew he insisted on eating only kosher food in outer space. And as a Jew he told the prime minister from his celestial perch, "I think it is very, very important to preserve our historical tradition, and I mean historical and religious traditions."

In so doing he showed that there is no limit to what a person can accomplish as a Jew. He said to all Jews, here in Israel and throughout the world, even as anti-Semitism again threatens us, even as Jews in Israel are being murdered just for being Jews, our enemies will never define us or tell us there are limits to what we can do.

But Ilan Ramon was not simply a Jew. He was an Israeli Jew. And, as a scientist and fighter pilot his was the face of Israeli exceptionalism. Ramon excelled in all he did. He was first in his class in high school. He was first in his class in flight school. He was first in his class in astronaut training. On a break from the air force in the 1980s, after completing his studies in electrical engineering and computer science at Tel Aviv University, Ramon joined the team at Israel Aircraft Industries that developed the Lavi fighter jet. On the Columbia, Ramon conducted environmental research on desertification.

Today, when mediocrity seems to be the unifying characteristic of so many of the personalities that make up our national landscape, Ramon reminded us of what we can and should aspire to. Speaking of Ramon a few months before the shuttle launch, his fellow astronauts praised his professionalism above all.

As we have been consumed for more than two years with our daily reality of terrorism and pain, Ramon reminded us that there are other sides to our lives in Israel. Our mastery of science has placed our tiny state at the cutting edge of space research. Like our friends, the Americans, we will not be limited by gravity in our quest for answers to the riddles of the universe.

Finally, Ramon was a husband to Rona and father to Assaf, David, Tal, and Noa.

Our hearts go out to his family members. But we can only pray that they will take comfort in the fact that in his life, their Ilan saved both the life and the spirit of his country.

This piece ran on the front page of the Jerusalem Post on February 2, 2003

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Locate Torah Scroll From Bergen Belsen That Fell to Earth with the Columbia Shuttle Debris
David Bedein

One of the items that Col. Ilan Ramon was carrying with him in a protective casing was a small Torah scroll (Five Books of Moses) that had survived the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, as mentioned by Caroline Glick in her moving tribute to the memory of Ilan Ramon that was published in the Jerusalem Post of February 2 2003.

Ilan's mother had been a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.

While human life can be extinguished, the life of the Torah is never extinguished.

While Ilan's physical body may not be able to be fully buried, the Jewish religious condition has it that a damaged Torah must indeed buried.

Residents of Texas and law enforcement officials should be on the alert that a small Torah scroll, which is perhaps damaged at this time, might be located and found.

It would be a great "mitzvah" to be on the lookout for a "sefer torah" that may have landed as debris on the Texas landscape.

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"I do not know how to break the news of Ilan Ramon's death . . . to my five-year-old son, Gilad
Lisa Katz

I do not know how to break the news of Ilan Ramon's death and the Space Shuttle crash to my five-year-old son, Gilad. Like all Israeli school children, Ilan had become his hero.

Sixteen days ago, Gilad came home with the number 5:40 written on his hand.

When I asked him what it was, he said his kindergarten teacher had written it on all the children's hands to remind them of the time when Ilan would be taking-off in the Space Shuttle that day. He explained to me how he was supposed to count (in English with his Israeli accent) "10, 9, 8, . . . lift-off" so Ilan would know that all the Israeli children were with him in spirit as he left the earth. Throughout the sixteen days of Ilan's tour in space, he regularly cut out articles and pictures of Ilan from the newspaper. He had no trouble finding material because Israeli newspapers covered the details of the Shuttle Columbia in great depth. Just yesterday, on our way to kindergarten, Gilad told me that if he worked really hard in school, then he could become an astronaut like Ilan.

The entire Israeli public felt great excitement and pride as Ilan took-off into space. My older son skipped his sports class, my older daughter skipped her drama class, and my husband came home early from work in order to watch the take-off of Shuttle Columbia on the television. Shuttle Columbia's launch was covered live by all Israeli television stations and made headlines on all Israeli newspapers.

Ramon was an Israeli hero. A colonel and former fighter pilot in the Israeli air force, he saw combat experience in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Lebanon War in 1982. Ramon was also one of the pilots that bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

Ramon, 48, was the son of a Holocaust survivor. He took a special drawing, from Israel's Holocaust Museum Yad VaShem, with him into space. The drawing was created by a 14-year-old boy named Petr Ginz, who draw and wrote a good deal about science, while he was in a Nazi work camp and before he was killed in Auschwitz in 1944. The pencil drawing, entitled Moon Landscape, shows a view of the earth from the surface of the moon, as imagined by the boy. Given the tragic end to Columbia, the haunting words of one of Petr's unfinished short stories comes to mind. In "Crazy August" Petr wrote: "The compartment was illuminated with great brilliance, and in the flame of the great explosion Petr saw a trace of the great merger."

While Ramon was not a religious Jew, he asked for kosher food aboard the shuttle and he observed the Jewish Sabbath, day of rest, in space. Ramon represented to the Israeli public just how far the Jewish people have come in two generations - from the depths of the Nazi gas chambers to the heights of space.

Israel is a depressed country these days. The 2.5 year long conflict with the Palestinians has included more than 80 suicide bombings that have injured thousands and killed over 700 (the equivalent in percentage terms of losing more than 35,000 a.m.ericans). The country is suffering from a socio-economic crisis, partly due to the world-wide hi-tech crash and partly due to the conflict with the Palestinians. And Israelis are anxiously waiting for the possible outbreak of a war with Iraq; the last such conflict had Israelis putting gas masks on their children and sleeping in bomb shelters. In this sea of bad news, Ilan Ramon's lift-off into space was a morale boost. Now that ship has sunken, and all Israelis are in mourning.

This morning, the morning after the tragedy, I awoke to Memorial Day songs on the radio. In between the songs, the radio host instructed parents on how to break the news of Ilan's death to their children. We should show them the pictures in the newspaper, explain to them exactly what happened to the space shuttle, and tell them that sometimes accidents like this do happen. We should have them make pictures and write letters to Ilan's family. And we should tell the children that Ilan was able to achieve the dream of his life by going to the stars.

This and other articles written by Lisa Katz can be found online at

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Memorial Prayer for Col. Ilan Ramon and the picture that he took of Israel from outer space

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Ilan Ramon: Why He Volunteered to Be a Pilot to Bomb the Iraqi Reactor

In 1981, Ilan Ramon was on the team that was to bomb the Iraqi reactor.

His commanding officer, Gen. Yadlin, spoke on Sunday evening, February 2 on Israeli TV on the "Seven and a Half" early evening news program about that action, saying that the simulations predicated a possibility that two planes could be shot down.

The main problem was that there were to be eight sorties over the target and the planners were unsure about the reaction time and capabilities of the ground defense crews and their response to the attacking force with anti-aircraft guns and missiles.

Ilan basically volunteered to be in the eighth plane. He was then unmarried whereas all the other pilots were married and fathers.

Ilan told Yadlin that as he was the son of a Holocaust survivor, anything that he could do to prevent another Holocaust was worth all the risks.

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