LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30 (JTA) — When Israel’s first astronaut boards a U.S. space shuttle in about a year, he will carry with him artifacts that “emphasize the unity of the people of Israel and the Jewish communities abroad.” Col. Ilan Ramon isn’t yet ready to reveal precisely what “things” he will take along, but he sees his two-and-a-half-week mission in space as a “good stage to proclaim that we [in Israel] need you, and you [in the Diaspora] need us.” The boyish-looking 45-year old fighter pilot and squadron commander made his announcement at a reunion Sunday of Machal West, which consists of American and other overseas volunteers who fought in Israel’s War of Independence. Identifying himself as the son of a refugee father from Germany and a mother who survived Auschwitz, Ramon said that serving as his country’s first astronaut was part of a “miracle” that stretched back 50 years when the men and women in his audience left safe homes to fight for the nascent Jewish state. “I’m proud of you,” he said. “What you’ve done for Israel is much greater than what I have done.” Ramon is now in training at the Johnson Space Center near Houston and the precise date of his mission has not yet been set. However, he knows that he will be in charge of an experiment, developed at Tel Aviv University, to measure aerosol particles, whose distribution in the atmosphere affects global cooling and warming.
First Israeli astronaut will take Jewish artifacts along for the ride