Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

in association with the Fairness Project
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 3, 2003

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In-Depth Issue:

Ramon's First Combat Mission: Iraq - Amos Harel
    Ramon was the youngest pilot (27 at the time) to take part in the June 17, 1981, Israeli air strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.
    He was in charge of choosing the path of attack, navigating, and planning fuel consumption for the four-hour round trip over hostile territory.
    "If I can prevent a second Holocaust, I'm ready to sacrifice my life for this," he said then. (Ha'aretz)

Ilan Ramon's E-mail from Space to Israeli President Katsav
    "From space I could easily spot Jerusalem and while looking at Jerusalem our capital I prayed just one short prayer - 'Shma Yisrael....'" (Ha'aretz)

Some Experimental Data Saved from Destroyed Spacecraft
    About a third of the data collected by the Columbia shuttle team for the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) was transmitted to Earth last week, said Prof. Yuval Ne'eman, head of the Israel Space Agency, who added that the scientific knowledge that was saved will be the astronauts' legacy. (Jerusalem Post)

Useful Reference:

NAME: Ilan Ramon (Colonel, Israel Air Force)
Payload Specialist (NASA)

Colonel Ilan Ramon: Biography

The Columbia Mission Picture Gallery (Ha'aretz)

To Send Condolences to the Ramon Family (IDF)

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

Israel Mourns the Loss of the Brave Crew of the Columbia Spacecraft,
including Israel Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon

News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Tragedy Underscores "Incredible Bond" Between U.S. and Israel - Susan Jones
    "This is not just an Israeli astronaut," said Dan Gillerman, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, referring to Israeli Air Force Colonel Ilan Ramon. "This is a very special person...who carries with him the hopes, the aspirations of Israel at a very difficult time, when this in a way brought a ray of hope and light and something positive into a very difficult situation we are in." The fact that Ramon perished along with six American astronauts was "a manifestation and a testimony to the incredible bond between the U.S. and Israel - a bond of excellence, a bond of hope, a bond of freedom, and of bravery." (
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Ramon Wasn't Afraid of Going into Space - Tamara Traubman
    "The chances an accident would happen in space are very small," Ramon told Ma'ariv last month. "As far as safety is concerned, I'm not concerned at all....I'm sorry, but I'm not afraid," he said. "I was involved in several accidents, two of them serious. I had to abort, but thank God I made it in one piece."
        "Israel looks from here just like it does on the map, small but charming," Ramon told Prime Minister Sharon from space last week. "We have a wonderful people, and it is very important to preserve our heritage," he said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Friends and Family Rally Round as Houston Mourns - Nathan Guttman
    The entrance to the space base in Houston turned into a makeshift memorial. On Saturday evening weeping civilians started coming there, lighting candles, posting signs, and leaving balloons, toy space shuttles, and teddy bears behind. At the center of the instantly-erected memorial an Israeli flag was raised, along with a sign, in English: "Ilan Ramon - you are our hero." (Ha'aretz)
  • "The Hearts of Americans and Israelis Beat as One" - Herb Keinon
    Israeli and U.S. flags were lowered to half-mast at a brief ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office Sunday morning to commemorate the Columbia space shuttle tragedy. Prime Minister Sharon spoke by phone with President Bush soon after the Columbia disaster became known. Sharon sent his and Israel's condolences to the American people and the families of the Columbia crew members, and said that in times like this "the hearts of Americans and Israelis beat as one."
        Former Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "Today is a day of mourning and pain for all the people of Israel. I have no words to praise the tremendous behavior of Ilan Ramon who, during the peak of his fame, displayed courage, modesty, and Israeli patriotism, and in his cruel death left us all orphaned." (Jerusalem Post)
  • "Americans and Israelis are Brothers on Earth and in Space" - Gideon Alon
    American Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who was invited to address the Israeli cabinet, said "Americans and Israelis turned their eyes toward the heavens with pride and anticipation as the Columbia space shuttle lifted upward carrying seven brave astronauts. Our two nations shared joy and admiration for the heroism and bravery of the crew. We shared hopes and dreams of the advances that this mission promised for the betterment of humankind," Kurtzer said. "As we share triumphs, we also share misfortune," the ambassador continued. "Americans and Israelis are brothers indeed - on earth and in space." (Ha'aretz)
  • Ramon Represented Us All - Matthew Gutman
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Sunday, "We saw Ilan put on the blue and white badge that represents us all. He bore our national symbols and flag with pride and achieved something that few have done before. We will never forget that white stripe that scarred the heavens while below on Earth everyone was preparing to celebrate his return." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Jews Mourn Ramon - Melissa Radler
    Leaders of Jewish groups said they were devastated at Ramon's death and they noted that events commemorating his achievements are being planned. "He was a person who healed Israel at a time when it so badly needed someone to bring people together," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "Throughout the community there is a profound sense of loss with all the astronauts. Each one of them was a hero, all people who were really true role models." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Grief Tightens U.S.-Israeli Bond - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Not even after a terrorist attack do Israelis allow themselves to grieve so openly as they have for Ilan Ramon, the Israeli air force colonel lost on the space shuttle Columbia on Saturday. Israelis love America. It is one of the few countries where America is still regarded without cynicism as the world's great defender of freedom. (USA Today)
  • Dreams Rode With Him - Jimmy Breslin
    Ilan Ramon's father, Eliezer Wolferman, had been in Florida for the launch, but "Ilan told his father that he didn't know where he was going to land," his neighbor said. "California or Florida or Texas. He said you can't be sure with the weather. The father could be waiting for him in Texas and instead he lands in California. He told his father to go home and watch it on television." Wolferman had driven to the Israel Television Channel 2 station outside of Tel Aviv where he was interviewed prior to watching his son land. The father was in the studio watching the screen when everything went wrong. The come-down clock counted down to zero and then it did not stop. (Newsday)
  • Young Dreams Flew with Ilan Ramon - Helen Schary Motro
    Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was 48 years old, but space brought out the boy in him. He said floating was what he liked best about being in space. "There is no better place to emphasize the unity of people in the world than flying into space. It goes the same for any country, Arab country, whatever - we are all the same people," said Ramon. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • A Subtle Call to Jewish Earthlings - Shlomo Gestetner
    Said Ramon: "My mother is a Holocaust survivor who was in Auschwitz, and my father fought for the independence of Israel not so long ago. I was born in Israel and I'm kind of the proof for my parents and their generation that whatever we've been fighting for in the last century is coming true. I feel I'm representing the whole Jewish people." (Jerusalem Post)
  • Talking Points:

    Many Palestinians Express Joy at Tragedy
    - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

    • God punished the space shuttle Columbia because its crew, which included an Israeli astronaut, was on an espionage mission against the Arab and Muslim nations, some Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said.
    • "They were sent to space to spy on the Arabs and Muslims," said Rudainah Salman, a 28-year-old schoolteacher from Ramallah. "I have no sympathy for the astronauts because they were doing something bad to us. Allah punished them because of their bad intentions."
    • Salim Najjar, a mosque preacher from a village near Jerusalem, told a group of Muslim worshipers, "Israel and America are trying to control the world through their arrogance and with the help of military force. On Saturday they were reminded that God is there to protect the believers, the people of the Prophet Muhammad."
    • At the Kalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah, a group of young men sitting in a small restaurant said they felt "happy" when they heard the news of the space shuttle explosion. "God is great because this pilot has now been punished for the crime which he committed. I wish we will have more disasters like this in the U.S. and Israel. Who do the Americans and Israelis think they are?" said Jamil Shehadeh, a 22-year-old mechanic.
    • Ayman Dweik, 19, said, "People here say that the shuttle was on an espionage mission to gather information on the Arab and Muslim countries."
    • A Christian shopkeeper in the Old City of Jerusalem, however, said he was "stunned" to see many of his colleagues express their joy at the tragedy. "This isn't a political issue. So what if an Israeli astronaut was on board? This is a tragedy to all mankind. This is what I told my neighbors this morning. But many of them, especially those who are religious, believe that this is God's punishment for the U.S. and Israel. No one here has regrets over the tragedy, and that's sad."
    • A Palestinian writer said, "You have to understand that anything that is painful for the Americans and the Israelis is seen by the Palestinians in particular, and the Arabs in general, as a blessing. That's how it is."

        See also Arabs Hope Shuttle Disaster Prompts U.S. Reflection - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    In the Middle East, where the hand of God is never believed too far off the tiller of daily events, one explanation for the shuttle disaster quickly gained widespread currency today: divine retribution. Your average cafe denizen looked no further than the Israeli colonel on board and reports that the shuttle apparently first began crumbling over Palestine, Tex., to conclude that God was sending the U.S. a message. Rumors were also rife that the shuttle mission involved spying on Iraq.

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