Captain Asaf Ramon
Reproduction photo: Yariv Katz

Asaf Ramon to be buried next to father

Son of late astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was killed in an F-16 crash, to be laid to rest at 4 pm Monday at Nahalal cemetery. Dozens of friends and acquaintances flock to Ramon residence, light memorial candles. Prime Minister Netanyahu postpones meeting with US envoy Mitchell in order to attend funeral

After the fatal Columbia shuttle mission, Captain Asaf Ramon had said he wanted to become an astronaut like his father, Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the disaster. "I believe it will make me feel closer to him," he had noted.


Asaf's wish will come true in the most tragic way on Monday, when he will be buried next to his father at the Nahalal cemetery at 4 pm, on a hill overlooking the Israel Air Force Base on Ramat David. Asaf was killed Sunday afternoon as his F-16 jet crashed over South Mount Hebron.


Dozens of relatives, acquaintances and friends flocked to the Ramon residence in Ramat Gan on Sunday. Asaf's friends lit memorial candles, cried and attempted to console each other. Only few entered the house, which was filled with cries of despair.


IAF Commander Major-General Ido Nehushtan left the family home just before midnight. "This is a sad and difficult day," he said. "This is all we can say at this stage. We embrace Rona (Asaf's mother) and the kids and the entire Ramon family."


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in taking part in the funeral, and has therefore asked to postpone his scheduled meeting with US special envoy George Mitchell to Tuesday morning.


The prime minister telephoned Rona Ramon on Sunday evening and told her, "Me and my wife Sara are crying with you, with the entire nation. I'll come to the funeral tomorrow."


Netanyahu, who visited Cairo on Sunday, informed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of the Ramon family's tragedy. Mubarak asked the prime minister to pass on his condolences to the family and to the people of Israel.


Envoy Mitchell expressed his grief over the tragedy as well. In the name of the people in the United States, he said, I send my condolences to the Ramon family. It's always difficult losing a loved one, he added, particularly when it is a young man filled with hopes and promises and whose while life and future are ahead of him.


Asaf Ramon with a picture and dedication from his father (Photo: AFP)


The Jezreel Valley Regional Council and the Northern District Police are preparing for the funeral, which is expected to be attended by hundreds of people.


"This is a military funeral and we are working in coordination with the army authorities and preparing to do everything to help," said Eyal Betser, head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council. "This is a terrible tragedy, which breaks one's heart, and I and all of the council's residents share the family's grief."


Before leaving for space on a mission never returned from, Ilan Ramon wrote this letter to his son: "Asaf, my eldest son. Look at the sky every evening and feel me walking about there – a bit far – but close. Close to the heart! I love you, my sweet boy, and miss you! Look after yourself, after your mother and after all your siblings! Dad."


Roni Sofer and Yaheli Moran Zelikovich contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 09.14.09, 00:48
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