There are occurances that are simply beyond human comprehension. What I report here today, with great sadness, is one of those occurances, one of those things that simply should not have happened, but did.
Six years ago, Ilan Ramon, a great pride to Israel, died in the fatal Columbia space shuttle incident. The first Israeli to serve in a space mission, Ilan died when the shuttle blew up on re-entry. He was an extraordinary man and a devoted Jew. There are stories to tell about him that I will return to.
Assaf and his mother at Ilan’s funeral
Ilan’s son, Assaf, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. In 2006, he enlisted in the IDF and passed Air Force examinations and trials for a prestigious pilot’s course. In June, he graduated from the course as valedictorian.
This afternoon, Assaf took off in an F-16, from the Nevatim Air Force base in the south, for dogfight training with another plane, which was flown by a veteran IAF pilot. I do not know what happened — I don’t know if anyone knows yet — investigation will be very thorough. There may have been a mechanical failure, it is being said, or he may have blacked out or experienced vertigo. What we know is this:
Assaf’s plane crashed into a mountain, and Assaf is dead.
The nation of Israel mourns this death.
Assaf leaves a 19-year-old brother, also an IAF soldier, a 17-year-old brother, and 12-year-old sister Noa.
He, of course, also leaves his mother, Rona, whose suffering must be unbearable.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had this to say on receiving the news:
“This is a terrible tragedy for Rona and the entire Ramon family. This is a terrible tragedy for the entire Israeli nation.
“I was emotional when Ilan, the youngest pilot to bomb the nuclear death reactor in Iraq, took with him to space the memory of the Holocaust death camps.
“I was extremely emotional again when Asaf followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating IAF’s pilots’ course with honors. The loss of each and every one of these magnificent people, the father and the son, is a disaster in of itself. The loss of them both is a pain too difficult to bear.
“There are no words of condolences for Rona and the Ramon family. There are no words of condolences to the people of Israel. There are only tears.”
There is nothing more to be said today.