21 December 2018 / 13 Tevet 5779
Rona Ramon, widow of Israel’s pioneer astronaut, Ilan Ramon and the mother of IAF pilot Assaf Ramon, who at age 21 was killed in a training accident, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Monday at the age of 54.
She and her late husband had always told their four children – Assaf, Tal, Yiftah and Noa – to follow their dreams. Since he was a small boy, Assaf had wanted to be a pilot like his father, who was killed in 2003 in the fatal Columbia space shuttle mission, when the spacecraft disintegrated over Texas as it was re-entering Earth.
When Assaf wanted to join the IAF she could not deny it to him, because she had always told her own children and other children to follow their dreams. In fact, three of her children served in the IAF.
Following Assaf’s death in 2009, she found his diary entry stating how proud he and his siblings were that their parents had educated them to know that each should have a dream and should aspire to make that dream a reality.
It was then that she reached the decision that she had to do something meaningful and substantial to preserve both the memories. She founded the Ramon Foundation, which inspires and motivates young Israelis to strive for academic excellence and encourages them to pursue their dream. She became the ambassador for Israeli space research and was able to bring NASA’s top astronauts to Israel to participate in annual space and science conferences.
Despite the pain of her loss, she gave priority to the needs of the country and the future of its young citizens.
Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, honoured her memory by saying that: “Ilan and Assaf touched the heavens, Rona touched our hearts”.
This week we when read Parsha Vayechi we conclude the reading of first book of Torah, Bereishis. The final verse concludes,”that Joseph was buried in Egypt”. It is an underwhelming end to one of the most dramatic books of the Torah. However, with this verse Joseph is making a statement. “That there will be dark days ahead with the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt. Yet, I am choosing to remain here in Egypt and I will only leave together with you at the miraculous exodus from Egypt”. Joseph, by choosing to be buried in Egypt, not Israel, was is giving the people Hope that there will be a redemption.
Great men and women continue to have an impact with their lives and legacy, not only in life, but in death as well.
Rabbi and Sheyna Riesenberg