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Ilan Ramon laid to rest
Jerusalem Post ^ | Feb. 12, 2003 | DANIEL BEN-TAL AND TOVAH LAZAROFF

Posted on 02/11/2003 7:22:28 PM PST by yonif

In space, John Lennon's song "Imagine" was one of the astronaut wake-up calls. Tuesday, it was the tune by which Israel's first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, was finally laid to rest.

Ramon, one of seven who died aboard the the shuttle Columbia when it broke apart on February 1, was memorialized on Monday after his coffin landed in Israel at a national ceremony broadcast around the world.

He was laid to rest Tuesday at a private, low-key military ceremony at Moshav Nahalal's cemetery, where some of the giants in Israeli history, including war hero Moshe Dayan, are buried.

The media and public were asked not to attend. For the most part, the public respected the Ramon family's wishes and police faced no disruptions as they directed relatives to buses parked in the moshav, two kilometers from the cemetery, and kept uninvited guests, including reporters and photographers, away.

Among the guests were five members of the Israeli scientific team that had worked with Ramon for four years, and who followed his flight and unsuccessful reentry to earth from a site in Maryland. Scientist Yoav Yair of the Open University said that the song was played in space for shuttle astronaut William C. McCool. But one day, Ramon translated it into Hebrew.

A recording of that moment was played at the funeral, with Ramon's voice saying in Hebrew, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will live as one."

Ramon added, "Planet Earth is very beautiful," recalled Yair.

He said that a representative from NASA spoke at the funeral about Ilan and the beauty of space flight. "He had asked Ilan to look at the stars and the galaxy and to write him what he saw. He said that Ilan gave him a short answer and said that they would speak about it after he came back," said Yair.

According to Y-Net, Ramon's father, Eliezer Wolferman, compared the fallen hero's space flight with the journeys of the prophet Moses in his eulogy.

About 200 people were present at the burial on a hillside overlooking Ramon's favorite landscape. The funeral was attended by family, close friends, and comrades-in-arms, including former president and IAF commander Ezer Weizman.

As an honor guard fired three rounds that reverberated though the Galilee hills, signifying the end of the hour-long military funeral, a policeman at a roadblock bowed his head in respect.

Moments later, the IAF saluted its fallen fighter pilot with a flyover of four F-16s above the burial site. As the planes approached the cemetery, one of them veered toward space in the symbolic "missing man" formation.

The wreath-laying that normally takes place at the end of military funerals was held during a military ceremony an hour previously at the nearby Ramat David Air Force Base, where Ramon served.

Yair said he was glad there was a more private way to mourn Ramon. He had opted not to go to Monday's service. He didn't even watch it on television. "I found it a little too public. I had personal memories of Ilan. It was too painful for me.

I couldn't find myself in such a public event with all the media and the prime minister."

He added that, as an officer in the air force, he was more comfortable in a military ceremony. "It was a sad ceremony in a beautiful place. It was hard to comprehend the sadness of this event and the happiness we had felt just 10 days before waiting for the shuttle to land."

Rabbi Zvi Konikov of the Chabad Jewish Community Center of the Space Coast in Satellite Beach, Florida, who knew Ramon from the US, said that although he had accompanied Ramon's coffin on its trip to Israel Monday, he opted not to go to the funeral.

He plans to go visit the family during shiva, but said the funeral itself was a family moment. Konikov said that, as one who lost his mother four months ago, he understands the importance of private grief.

"Rona has been with the public for so long. I think she needed to have a little time for herself," he said.

The IDF this week rejected a request to posthumously promote Ramon to the rank of brigadier-general. Upset by the decision, Interior Minister Eli Yishai hopes to bring the matter before the cabinet.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Israel; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: columbia; ilan; ilanramon; ramon

1 posted on 02/11/2003 7:22:29 PM PST by yonif
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