Breaking news from Sunday night (which I, of course, did not hear until Monday morning) was that Asaf Ramon, the son of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, was killed when the plane he was piloting for the Israeli Air Force crashed.
Ilan Ramon, z”l, was aboard the space shuttle Columbia, which was lost in 2003. He was a hero to Israelis; the best of the best, doing amazing things as part of an international team of scientists; lost in his prime. There is an elementary school two blocks from my house named after him.
Asaf Ramon was 21, just beginning his adult life and following in the footsteps of his father. He will be mourned by his mother and siblings, as well as the leaders of Israel and everyone who admired his father.
I cannot help thinking, though, of those soldiers, Israelis here and Americans elsewhere, who die in more mundane ways, who are mourned by fewer, and the families who have suffered more private losses. Those who do not die, but rather have difficult tasks and then are judged in the court of public opinion; who sometimes return home scarred by what they have been called upon do or see.
I do not wish to minimize Asaf Ramon’s death in any way; I grieve especially for his mother, who was notified by the press of her son’s death before the military representatives could deliver the news nobody wants to hear.
Public deaths, or the death of a public figure, are hard to watch. A million years ago I sat behind Alisa Flatow in class. The next semester I attended her funeral. As difficult as it was to wrap my head around the violent death of a young, vibrant classmate, it was more difficult to comprehend the behavior of the media, who trespassed among her friends, harassed her boyfriend, and offered opinions in their newspapers. I didn’t know Alisa well, but I cried not only for her but the people who she left behind, who had to do their grieving before cameras and under stage lights. (Her father has since created scholarships and schools to honor her memory, some of which bring people to Israel, the land she loved and the place she died.)
Asaf Ramon has been buried next to his father. I wish for his mother, brothers, and sister, and all Israelis, to be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and to know only joy in the future.