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."