Asaf Ramon died today in a training accident. His F16 plane crashed in the hills south of Jerusalem. These are the words that describe what happened; but there are feelings that threaten to cripple a mother’s heart. Six years ago, Rona Ramon learned that her husband, Ilan Ramon, would never return. He’d flown to the stars and beyond, further than they had ever imagined when he joined the NASA team going into space.
It had been Ilan’s dream to be an astronaut, Israel’s first to enter space. He took with him the pride of his nation and symbols of his heritage. Rona left her home in Israel to help make Ilan’s dream come true and when he died, she made the courageous decision to uproot her children and return home, to Israel.
Ilan was a hero – not just for the flight he took to space, but for what he had done in the air force years before. Ilan flew to Iraq as part of a mission to destroy a nuclear reactor that was being built. It was a threat to the country he had promised to protect and he returned home, his participation in the mission a secret known by few until his death.
Ilan’s son Assaf was 15 years old when his father died. A difficult, impressionable age to lose a father. Assaf stood by his mother at Ilan’s funeral, looking lost and sad and yet already he was planning, thinking, growing. Assaf returned home to Israel and chose to follow his father’s path. He entered the air force and graduated from the top of his course.
Yesterday, on a solo training flight, Assaf died. People will investigate to determine why but it matters little right now. All that matters is Rona and her children, their family, and a nation in mourning for the loss of a son. Israel does not have a royal family or celebrities or sons loved more than others. But in this our leaders are correct. This is a tragedy that breaks the heart.
Assaf lived in America for several years and then came home to the land of his birth. Yesterday, Israel and America lost a son. May his memory be blessed and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.