An Israeli air force combat helicopter flies over the crash site of a F-16 warplane that was flown by Assaf Ramon, the son of an Israeli astronaut who died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster, near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever, west of Hebron, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009. (David Vaaknin / AP Photo)

By Frank James

Israelis are grieving the death over the weekend in a fighter jet crash of the 21-year old fighter-pilot son of the first Israeli in space who tragically died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

Asaf Ramon, an Israeli Air Force captain, died Sunday when his F-16A fighter jet crashed into a hill during a training mission.

The young pilot's father was Ilan Ramon, son of a Holocaust survivor, who was one of the seven astronauts killed when the Columbia disintegrated above the American Southwest because of damage that occurred at launch. Asaf was one of Ilan and Rona Ramon's four children.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Asaf was buried next to his father. An excerpt from its report:

The funeral began at 4 P.M. at Kibbutz Nahalal and was closed to the media, as requested by Ramon's mother, Rona.
"You were supposed to bury me here, happy, old, surrounded by grandchildren," said Rona Ramon, over the graves of her husband and son.
Hundreds of Ramon's relatives and friends, as well as a number of dignataries, accompanied the procession...

The report also mentions that Asaf Ramon's death has some Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, raising questions about the wisdom of allowing the children of widows to serve in combat roles. The questions by senior officials seemed to raise the possibility of a policy change.

Another excerpt:

Netanyahu said Monday that the fatal crash that took Ramon's life was a "double loss", almost on the level of "a biblical tragedy."
"A father and son followed their hearts and soared to the heavens in chariots of steel, crashing to the Earth in chariots of fire," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also said the crash raises questions about whether or not children of mothers who had lost their husbands should be allowed to serve in combat units.
"The dilemma here is very difficult, and the inclination is to say no [to combat service for children of bereaved parents]," Netanyahu said Monday.

categories: Foreign News

12:43 - September 14, 2009