Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


10 Years Later: Looking Up at Ilan Ramon

A sad week in the history of the space program

Print Email

Friday will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which took the lives of seven astronauts, including Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space. It seems reductive to focus squarely on Ramon, given that the biographies of the other crew members are also compelling, but after reading up on Ramon again, I changed my mind.

The son and grandson of Holocaust survivors–his mother and grandmother survived Auschwitz–Ramon became a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, fighting in the Yom Kippur War and the first Lebanon War. He was also the youngest member of the team to carry out Operation Opera, which destroyed Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981. Ramon continued to rise through the ranks of the IAF, becoming a squadron commander and eventually a colonel before he became selected as a Payload Specialist with NASA. The resume is impressive, but it’s really his eloquence and humility that remind me of what an important figure he was.

After sifting through some videos, I found the one below, which contains Ramon’s last interview before his ill-fated flight. In it, he talks about the mission of his journey–research–as well as the meaning of it, which seemed to carry equal weight.

Though secular, Ramon ate kosher food in space because he felt the need to represent all Jews and Israelis. Ramon also carried with him a number of Jewish artifacts including a Torah salvaged from the Holocaust, a barbed wire mezuzah, and a sketch of a view of the earth from the moon by Petr Ginz, a teenage boy who drew the moonscape when he was in Theresienstadt and was later killed in Auschwitz.

Months after the Columbia disaster, Ramon’s diary was (somehow) found intact despite having fallen 37 miles, a distance over which it should have disintegrated. In the diary, which is now on display in Jerusalem, Ramon scribed a copy of the Shabbat Kiddush and wrote about observing the beauty of a powerful thunderstorm as he looked down over southeast Asia.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

10 Years Later: Looking Up at Ilan Ramon

A sad week in the history of the space program

More on Tablet:

Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS

By Lee Smith — Because they want the same things that teenage boys want: a strong sense of meaning and purpose