Skip to comments.Israel's astronaut carries nation's dreams
Posted on 02/01/2003 7:44:53 AM PST by MadIvan
All eyes are on Ilan Ramon
As poster boys for the Israel Space Agency go, it does not come much better than Colonel Ilan Ramon.
|I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially the survivors, the Holocaust survivors, because I was born in Israel, many people will see this as a dream that is come true
When he blasts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Ramon will become the first Israeli in space and make Israel the 30th nation to have a citizen fly in orbit.
His flight has become a welcome distraction for Israelis troubled by the ongoing violence in the Middle East and a source of national pride.
Ramon will not be the first Jew in space, others who went before him include Judy Resnik, who was killed in the Challenger disaster in 1986.
Nor is Israel's first astronaut a strict practising Jew when on the ground.
But with the eyes of a nation upon as he makes this first symbolic flight, Ramon has been keen to play tribute to his religious heritage.
"As an Israeli and a Jew I asked Nasa if it would be possible to supply kosher food for my menu in space," Ramon said.
"I was surprised and overwhelmed with the effort Nasa put in to trying to accommodate my request," he added.
Among the few personal possessions he will take with him on his 16-day voyage will be mezuzahs - small cases that are hung on door frames of Jewish homes and contain inscriptions from the Bible.
He is also taking a book of Psalms which was given to him by Israel's President Moshe Katsav - the microfiche of the Bible is the size of a credit card.
Tribute to victims
But probably of greatest resonance is a picture drawn by a 14-year-old Jewish boy name Peter Ginz before he was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
Ramon will take a picture drawn by a boy killed in Auschwitz
The pencil drawing, entitled Moon Landscape, shows a view of the earth from the surface of the moon, as imagined by the boy.
"I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially the survivors, the Holocaust survivors, because I was born in Israel, many people will see this as a dream that is come true," Ramon explained.
"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 becoming true."
Marking the Sabbath
|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 becoming true
Time permitting, Ramon says he wants to observe the Jewish day of rest as "an act of solidarity with the Jewish tradition".
The ceremony to mark the Sabbath is supposed to begin at sundown, but when the shuttle is in orbit the sun rises and sets 16 times in a 24-hour period.
To solve the theological conundrum Ramon consulted scientists and rabbis alike, and finally they hit upon the solution that he would follow Houston time - the home of Nasa's mission control.
Thanks to the practical restrictions of being in a spacecraft Ramon will also forgo the lighting of candles that features in the Sabbath ceremony.
And he will of course not refrain from all forms of creative labour, such as using electricity and writing, as strict religious Jews do.
Another time peculiarity that the trip has thrown up is that Ramon will miss the upcoming Israeli general election on 28 January.
As a result Ramon has been issued with an absentee ballot, but he said he does not intend to vote.
Colonel Ramon was a hero even before this launch - he was in the raid that took out Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor.
Israel, which was so boosted by his launch, may plunge into despair.
On behalf of posters on Free Republic, I post this with deepest sympathy for the crew and their families.
Mission - sts107
Despair for the loss of a hero, certainly. But I'm sure Colonel Ramon would with them to remain courageous, as he did - 'till the end.
Prayers for Israel.
Just as the Jews as a people survived the horrors of the Holocaust to rise again, but never forget, so shall the people of Israel and America grieve now, yet rise again to the skies above. But we'll never forget this sad, brutal day. I have a double pain in my heart.
I daren't ask what the reaction of the Al Jazeera crowd is to the brave Colonel's death.
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." Psalms, 57:1