D’var Israel — February 4, 2017

Noa Amir and Aviv Shabo
D’var Israel

Watching the news these days, it seems like what is happening with our neighbor to the south is all people are talking about, day and night. We get the sense that in Canada, people are left with feelings of frustration, disappointment, sadness and longing for a better leader. This got us thinking a lot about what a leader is in today’s world, Clearly, we to think a lot about who our leaders are in Israel. But right now, this seems to be on everyone’s mind.

Most often, the word "leader" is associated with a person who is leading a country - a prime minister or a president. But are they the only leaders we have in the world? They are leaders for sure, but you can find leaders in every place on the globe. Each one of them has an impact on a different group of people and different subjects. Today we want to talk about one of the best examples of a leader Israel has ever had – Ilan Ramon.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with that name, Ilan was the first Israeli to reach space - and so far - the only Israeli. On January 16th, 2003 the spaceship "Columbia" of NASA was launched into space for a two - week mission.
On February 1st, on her way back to earth, the spaceship exploded and the seven astronauts who were in that spaceship died. The anniversary of that tragedy was this week.

But before we begin talking about the Ilan Ramon who was made famous because of this horrible disaster, we should talk after the Ilan Ramon whose accomplishments placed him at the top of his field as an example to all Israelis and all lovers of science and space travel.

Ilan Ramon was born in 1954 in the city of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. After graduating from High school and when it was time to join the army, Ilan chose to take one of the hardest courses he could have taken – aviation.

Unfortunately, 8 months after he began the program, he had to quit because of a fracture in his hand. But Ilan didn't give up on his dream. A year later he turned back to that course, and even graduated with honors.
In 1980 Ilan was one of the first pilots who learned how to fly an F-16 plane that is considered as the spine of the Israeli air force today. In 1981 Ilan took part in one of the most successful operations the IDF has ever had - the destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor. Ramon flew the back plane and was in the highest level of risk. The operation ended perfectly with no casualties at all.

Two years later Ramon left the Army to attend university. He studied computers and technology for 4 years and then came back to the IDF as Squadron commander.

In 1995 an agreement was signed between Israel and the US about combining Israel in one of NASA's flights to space. Israel's space agency wanted to develop the space research in Israel and to promote Israel as one of the leading countries in space industry. Ilan Ramon was elected to be the representative of the country.

As we have said, on February 1st 2003, on her way back to earth, the spaceship "Columbia" exploded and the seven astronauts who were in that spaceship died. Ilan was one of them.
For me, Ilan represents the perfect israeli role-model. A man who was born and raised in Israel, has a rich and successful army career, and who decides to keep involved in developing and defending his own country, our country, Israel.

For me, a leader is the one who leads people after him, and if he is doing it good, people will notice, people will follow, and he will bring a revolution with him. I have no doubt that Ilan is a leader.

Today, the state of Israel is a leader when it comes to space research. Israel is one of the only 8 countries that launched a satellite to space, SpaceIL – a nonprofit association that set a goal to land an Israeli satellite on the moon moved a step further to its target and qualified to the final top 5 of Google's space travel competition. Many other satellites projects are being developed right now in Israel.

Israel is a space superpower and Ilan Ramon was a pioneer - one of the Haluzim - in the efforts to reach space.
Ilan Ramon is a leader not because he tried to convince people to follow him, he was a pioneer who did something for the first time. He was a leader because he knew that he is the first Israeli in space and didn't ignore it. He felt the obligation to act about it.

In the list of items that Ilan decided to take with him to space, there was the Israeli flag, and a badge from the Israeli Air Force. He had a painting, painted by a young child at Bergen-Belsen camp. A tiny torah book that he received from professor Yehoichin Yosef (יהויכין יוסף) the holocaust survivor, who originally go it in Bergen Belzen from Rabbi Shimon Desberg who smuggled it into the camp. And he had a flag with the "blich" (בליך) school symbol, of Ramat Hen - a school in Ramon's neighborhood, where his children studied when they returned to Israel.

Ilan didn't ignore his Israeli and Jewish identity not even for a second. More than that, he was proud of it.
He was proud of his roots, his identity and the community he came from.
This is an extremely important message. Ilan Ramon is a leader that showed his people that being Jewish and Israeli is nothing to be shy of. There are many types of leaders. Each one of them has a different impact and different audiences. Some of them are countries' leaders and some of them are astronauts but to be honest, I would love to see a person like Ilan as a political leader some day - determined, modest, and a real Zionist.

We would like to take a minute and think about Ramon and all the people, all the leaders who have given their lives for the State of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom!

Aviv and Noa