Remembering Ilan Ramon, Astronaut and Hero

Twenty years ago last Tuesday, Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, died aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Early in his life, Ramon had served in the Israeli air force, and took part in the daring 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. His friend and former flight instructor, Amos Yadlin—who flew alongside him in the Osirak mission—discusses his recollections of Ramon in an interview with Menachem Butler.

Ilan . . . was the only unmarried pilot [of the eight who flew to Iraq]. He said, “You all have wives and kids. Give me the most dangerous place in the formation.” And that was position number eight. Number one came by surprise; number two was still a surprise. And as eight airplanes dive [on the target], the last one [in the formation] is the one most likely to be shot down. So, Ilan volunteered for the eighth position. . . . He did [so] out of friendship and camaraderie, and because of the amount of training time we had spent together.

If Murphy’s law says anything that can go wrong will go wrong, that night it was the other way around. Everything that could have gone wrong went right. Every surprise was for the good. The airplane’s fuel consumption was better than we thought it would be. The [Iraqi] MiGs did not take off to engage us. The air defenses were pointed to the east, and they did not pick us up until very late. Basically, all the airplanes were faithful airplanes. None of them had a malfunction. So we thought maybe we got some help from the Almighty that this important historic mission went on without malfunctions.

Yadlin also recalls a conversation he had with Ramon in Texas in 2001 or 2002, when he was preparing for spaceflight with the rest of the Columbia crew. At the time Yadlin was a senior air-force officer, and he had come to tell Ramon that the IDF had run out of the funds to sponsor his participation in the space mission:

I told Ilan we would have to recall him. His answer was very interesting and touching to me. He said “Amos, we are good friends. Yes, the air force has sent me here, but I’m no longer only an air-force representative. I represent, here, the state of Israel and the Jewish people. You cannot recall me.” And then he invited me to meet the whole team. And I had a very touching, emotional conversation with them. They all spoke highly of Ilan, and the need to keep him on the team. I came back to Israel and we found the budget for the continuation of his training in the U.S. Yes, sometimes I’m sorry that we found the budget, but this is how it is.

Read more at Tablet

More about: IDF, Ilan Ramon, Iraq, Space exploration

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security