The Re-launch of Ilan Ramon
On January 20th, 2003 the seven crewmembers of the ill-fated space shuttle Columbia woke up to the song, Hatishma Koli (Will you hear my voice?):
Will you hear my voice my far-away one
Will you hear my voice wherever you are
A voice calling with strength, crying in my blood.
Over time it sends a blessing
The song had been chosen by Rona Ramon, wife of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.
Last night I heard that voice – only it was coming from Ilan.
Last night I watched in awe as one dignitary after another stood up to speak about Ilan’s ineffable drive to rise above his own remarkable achievements. The shuttle taking off into that crisp, blue sky on the morning of January 16th 2003 perfectly exemplified the holocaust survivor’s son who rose through the ranks of the Israeli Air Force to command with humility while striking with certainty. In 1981 Ilan planned, flew in and finished off Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. A few years later this youngest member of that strike team was a Deputy Squadron Commander, then a Squadron Commander and finally at age 40, promoted to colonel and Head of the Israeli Air Force’s Weapons Development and Acquisitions Department.
Planet/land so big and has many roads
we meet for a moment, separate forever.
A man asks, but his legs fail,
He can never find that which he has lost.
In 1997 NASA asked Ilan to fly even higher. A few months later he began his training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. A few years after that he found himself sitting upright in spaceship atop half a million gallons of hydrogen and oxygen about to blow through a thousand gallons per second as the space shuttle Columbia punched through the atmosphere into the dark recesses of space. Seventeen days later the Columbia disintegrated over Texas during reentry, 37 miles up and still traveling 18 times the speed of sound. A piece of foam would prove to be the eventual culprit that, having smashed into the wing on takeoff at an unearthly 500 miles per hour, ended the lives of Ilan Ramon and his six crewmembers.
The last of my days is already/so close perhaps
Already/so near is the day of goodbye tears.
I will wait for you until my life will end,
like Rachel’s wait for her lover.
Last night Ilan Ramon flew again. A facility once known as the Heschel West Day School officially changed its name to the Ilan Ramon Day School. They chose Ilan for his heroism, his tenacity and his humility. They chose someone their kids could look up to and their community could be proud of. But I suspect it was the other way around; that it was Ilan who chose them. After all, was it not Ilan who brought up a holocaust survivor’s miniature Torah scroll into space? Who took with him “Moon Landscape”, created by a 14-year-old Jewish boy, drawn during the child’s incarceration in the Theresienstadt ghetto? Who even though a secular Jew, observed Shabbat in space? It was because Ilan believed – in the importance of being a role model to all Jews; in achieving his potential in order to help others achieve theirs; in reaching for the stars with one hand while extending to us his other.
Last night the community watched Ilan Ramon launch their school. Tomorrow, as hundreds of children pour into a building bearing his name, that same community will watch him launch their dreams.
Hatishma Koli – Will you hear my voice?
Our brave and beautiful Ilan – we are now assured to hear it for generations to come.