Was there anyone around here who did not think of Rona Ramon Sunday? Was there anyone who did not think about the moment when the Air Force chief informed her of her eldest son’s death? Was there anyone who did not shiver when he imagined what this woman is going through; the woman who despite the tough circumstances allowed her son to realize his dream, and buried him today?
There are only a few human interest stories that turn into symbols here and maintain this status over the years. The Ramon family’s story has been part of the national ethos for a while now. An Israeli story about talent and success; a story about a breakthrough and national pride.
Ilan Ramon, the pilot who was among the ranks of the elite group tasked with bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor, and who became the first-ever Israeli astronaut; the man closely followed by a proud nation in the last weeks of his life, a nation that was stunned as it watched his death live on television.
And then there is his wife, Rona, a model of strength and dignity who was able to raise a wonderful family despite the crisis in the wake of Ilan’s death.
So if on Sunday you felt great sorrow coupled with a sense of cruel and unfair destiny, you were not alone. If the news of Asaf’s death pierced your heart like a misfired bullet, you were not alone. If you were shocked as if a member of your own family died, you were not alone.
These feelings overwhelmed an entire nation Sunday. A sense of personal, family, and national tragedies intermixed. Failure to grasp that it happened to us again. The broken heart of millions of people who did not know Ilan, who never met Rona, or who ever saw Asaf, yet nonetheless experienced a heavy sense of mourning yesterday.
The way we wish to see ourselves
It was not only the Israeli public that was shocked by Asaf Ramon’s death. The Air Force’s top brass, the commanders who seemingly saw it all by now, could not hold back the tears. Since Ilan Ramon’s death six and a half years ago, Asaf has become the Air Force’s kid. About two months ago, when he completed Pilot’s Course with distinction, the entire Air Force family showed up at the graduation ceremony. On Monday they again showed up, for his funeral.
We are a people who has suffered many tragedies. We have seen entire families wiped out in terror attacks or road accidents. We have seen parents who lost more than one child in war. We have seen women who lost a husband and a son. Yet the Ramon family’s story touches us in the deepest places and stirs our most sensitive emotions, because the story of Ilan and Rona, Asaf, Tal, Yiftah and Noa is not just a story of bereavement. It is a story of refined Israeliness.
It is the story of the way we wish to see ourselves: Beautiful, talented, distinguished, highly educated and highly moral. Now, this horrifying and incomprehensible bereavement, which is beyond our grasp, merely serves to reinforce the myth.