A Travellerspoint blog

Family Tragedy

Remembering Asaf and the Ramon Legacy of Bravery

All of Israel is mourning this week over the death of 21 year old Asaf Ramon. Asaf was a distinguished captain in Israel's air force. Tragically his plane malfunctioned and crashed while he was on a test flight in the Hebron Hills this Sunday. He was laid to rest beside his astronaut father, Ilan Ramon, who died with the other 7 NASA crew members in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster.

In this small country, every casualty hits close to home but obviously it doesn't get any closer than the door of Rona Ramon, Asaf's mother, his two younger brothers and his little sister who live in Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv). Thousands attended Asaf's funeral including Israel's president who had just been released from the hospital himself earlier that day.

Their family has a solid history of bravery. Asaf's grandparents were Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel. Asaf's father defended Israel with a daring strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, declaring that "If I can prevent a second Holocaust, I am ready to sacrifice my life." Asaf was just 15 years old when he lost his dad. After that, he vowed to follow in his fathers footsteps and graduated valedictorian of his cadet's class. He was quoted in the air forces journal: "It was important to me to mention my father and tell his stories, because I am proud of him and proud to be his son."

President Shimon Peres' words at Asaf's funeral were touching:

"Assaf was one of the best of our sons. He carried with him a rich heritage of patriotism, wisdom and generosity - a heritage deeply rooted within a family that was connected to the Jewish people's history and the courage of the state of Israel. I know there have never been words that can heal. An entire nation – every citizen – is hurting and crying, each on the shoulder of his brother. But this is not enough to fill the space of the heartbeats when you hear the boy come home from the base for the weekend, and they can never fill the empty bed, the closet, and the shirt with the wings, the laughter echoing in the home, the hug, and the kiss. Today we are all Ramons. You will return to the photos in the father's albums… especially to the memories, the moments of glory in space and in the sky, and to the breaking points in the skies of Texas and the Hebron Hills. Our broken hearts are with you in every tear, every smile-sparking memory, and every moment of wrenching pain. Consolation is far away but there are things to be proud of, and there are things to hope for."

Posted by Sarah 2116 06:45 Comments (1)

Outdoor Markets

An Israeli experience would not be complete without visiting at least one of the shook's in Israel. It seems like every region, if not every city, has it's own shook. Shook is Arabic for market. Shook's are outdoor markets that have everything you can imagine. Whereas in the US we have WalMart, Israeli's have the shook. In a shook you can buy freshly baked bread, candy, cheese, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, canned tuna, chips, clothing, jewelry, pots and pans, toilet paper, toys, paper products and everything else you can imagine. In the US, grocery stores compete by advertising their sales and products in weekly color fliers sent to individual homes. In Israeli shook's the advertising is done word of mouth as in the vendor hollers his deal as his potential customer is walking by. The competition can get pretty heated as the vender's are shoulder to shoulder barking the superiority of their product or price. Each city has its own flavor and style. I love the mass of people, colors and the hubbub. Usually there is loud music playing from someones booth sometimes its Israeli folk; sometimes rap in Hebrew; sometimes a symphony. The deals in the shook are usually better than in a grocery store but the conditions probably wouldn't pass an FDA inspection when it comes to hygiene.

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Posted by Sarah 2116 10:09 Comments (6)

Back to School

semi-overcast 88 °F

Students in Israel returned to school this past week. Ulpan was no exception. There are at least two new beginner classes at the ulpan where I go in addition to the beginner classes like mine who were returning for the final segment. With only six more weeks to go, we are starting to worry about the final exams.

My class returned to a new teacher. My classmates and I are a little bit frustrated by that since she is our fifth teacher in the last 4 months. As a teacher, she is great. She is more practical than any of the other teachers we have had and she is also more strict than any of the others we have had. The first few days back, she didn't really teach us any new grammar but concentrated on drilling the tense rules we have studied and adding to our vocabulary.

Posted by Sarah 2116 04:01 Comments (0)

Israel National Trail

sunny 78 °F

I mentioned in my post about my trip to southern Israel that I met a woman who hiked the entire length of the Israel National Trail. I have not been able to get the trail out of my head since I met her. I bought the book she wrote while I was in Eilat and have enjoyed reading about her countless adventures over the course of the trek.

I think Walk the Land is a window into Judy Pex's mind while hiking. She records her musings about life and Israel; her concerns and failures; her summit revelations. She recounts all the useless information she collected on her journey such as the current value of a camel ($2,000 a head). She gives detailed information on the historical background of the places she walked through and introduces the reader to the colorful people she met along the way. She included countless tips on hiking in general and the things she learned from hiking this particular trail. She is blatantly honest about the mishaps and mistakes along the way as well as her fears and concerns to keep the reader in touch with reality instead of floating away to hikers heaven inadvertently.

This led me to do some musing myself. Her trek though the Negev desert totaled 21 days. I thought about the children of Israel who were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the desert. I sort of pictured a massive crowd plodding through an endless desert progressing step by step, inch by inch but the desert just always seemed to have the upper hand. Now I realize how inaccurate that picture is. Numbers 14 makes it sound like they were officially out of Egyptian territory so their desert wandering must have been in the Negev. While the children of Israel probably could not travel at the same swift pace as Judy and her husband due to their sheer numbers, under normal circumstances there is no earthly reason why the journey should have stretched into such a lengthy overtime. So the moral of the story is: when led to the desert, be thankful or your 21 day journey can turn into 40 years of aimless circles.

The trail was officially marked in 1991 with the purpose of providing Israeli's with a basis to experience the entire breadth of the country. Since then, the trail has been modified slightly and more and more tourists have joined the thousands of Israeli's in participating in the trails adventure.

Today I was walking along the beach in Netanya when I saw the trail marker of the Israel National Trail. The marking symbol of the trail is a strip of each of the following colors: orange, blue and white. I wasn't expecting to run across it but seeing it in such an everyday part of town confirmed the purpose of the trail: to give a complete and accurate picture of the country not just the parks with historical significance or spectacular natural beauty. I spotted another marker painted on the side of a wall later in the day. By that time I was tired from walking all day so seeing the marker for the trail made me think of the strength and endurance it would take to complete the entire course. That reminded me of a part that Judy wrote about early in the book which I think goes to show how much she and the trail have already effected me.

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Posted by Sarah 2116 16:26 Comments (1)

Art in Israel

Ever since I first arrived in Israel a common theme has impressed me in each city I visit. All over Isael there is artwork randomly around the city from sculptures and mosaic chairs to paintings and street graffiti. Here are some that I have seen so far:

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Mount Herzl, Jerusalem

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Hamsa Fish in Eilat

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Street Music in Netanya

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"Fiddler on the Roof" in Netanya

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Man with Plow in Petach Tikva

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"Big Sister" in Netanya

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The Patriarchs in Jaffa

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Solomon (story in 1 Kings 3)in Petach Tikva

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Mosaic Turtle in Jerusalem

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Graffiti in Jerusalem

Posted by Sarah 2116 15:18 Comments (2)

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