Monday, September 14, 2009

Assaf Ramon, R.I.P (or: not the post you would expect)

Let us all forget about politics for a few minutes.

In January 2003, the space shuttle Columbia was making its way back to earth. On board, there was the first ever Israeli astronaut, an incredible individual named Ilan Ramon. The son and grandson of holocaust survivors, Ilan Ramon grew up to be a jet fighter; in 1981, he flew one of the jet fighters in the team that was sent to demolish Iraq’s nuclear facilities – a mission that was just as complex and dangerous as the criticism it has drawn worldwide.

Something went terribly wrong on the way back to earth, leading to the destruction of the space shuttle and the death of all astronauts. It’s one of those events when you will always remember what you were doing while receiving the news; I was still getting adjusted to the temporary residence I moved into, about a month after moving to Canada. It was truly shocking; an entire nation broke into tears.

Ilan’s son, Assaf, has decided, upon getting drafted to military service, to follow his father’s lead and join the Israeli Air Forces. The mandatory military law in Israel dictates that soldiers have no control over what their military occupation will be, with two exceptions:

  • A new recruit that is a part of a family that had lost a member due to a terrorism act, military operation;
  • A new recruit that is an only child.

Those who meet this criteria will not be recruited to combat-type service (including jet fighting, of course) unless expressly authorized by the parents. Despite the risks, the astronaut’s wife, Rona, has agreed that her son will fulfill his wish to follow his father’s footsteps and be recruited to the air force.

Yesterday, Assaf Ramon has been killed during a training flight. For unknown reasons, the aircraft he used crashed into the ground. An entire nation is mourning the death of yet another member of a family that has long been a role model in Israeli society.

Assaf’s funeral is taking place at these moments; he will be buried next to his father in Nahalal, Israel. His funeral is taking place right now, attended by the President and the Prime Minister, along with an abundance of attendees, some of which aren’t even related to, or acquainted with, the family.

So this post is dedicated to the Ramon family, even though I realize that the chances of them reading it are slim to none; yet, my heart is with you. I am sending my deepest condolences and I wish you no more suffering.


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