Asaf Ramon's mother: I know your father is watching over you
Son of Israeli astronaut buried beside his father, day after killed in an IAF accident; Peres: All of Israel in mourning.
Israel Air Force pilot Captain Asaf Ramon was laid to rest next to his father Ilan Ramon on Monday, a day after he was killed in a training accident while flying an Israel Air Force jet.
"You've trapped me," said Asaf's mother, Rona, standing over the graves of her husband and son. "It should have been me. You were supposed to bury me, old and happy, surrounded by millions of grandchildren.
"Oh, what a God," she continued, her voice breaking. "Dad, Grandpa and Grandma, all your loved ones, will watch over you now, my child... My Asaf, take care of Dad. I know Dad will take care of you, and hug you now."
The funeral began at 4 P.M. at the military cemetery at Moshav Nahalal and was closed to the media, as requested by Rona Ramon. Hundreds of Ramon's relatives and friends, as well as a number of dignataries, accompanied the procession.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief Gabi Ashkenazi were also in attendance. Netanyahu postponed a scheduled afternoon meeting with Barack Obama's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, who also attended the funeral.
"The State of Israel is lowering its flag, as a whole nation mourns the death of our fallen son," Peres said in eulogy of Ramon. "All of our hearts are broken today, because the personal child of the Ramon family was a child of all of us."
"The words that accompanied Asaf and his friends as they received their wings at graduation still echo in my ears - 'every plane that has flown in the sky, every star that lights up the eyes, reminds me of you' - those words, that touched the hearts of everybody at the parade grounds, have been crushed now before our eyes."
"Rona was already a hero, she was and will remain a hero. There is no other Rona. There is no other hero," Peres said. "... These words can never fill the void."
Ramon, 21, died when the F-16A Falcon jet he was flying crashed during a routine training flight near the southern Hebron Hills. His father was Israel's first astronaut, who perished onboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Like his son, Colonel Ramon was an F-16 pilot.
Netanyahu: Ramon family loss is like a 'biblical tragedy'
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday called the fatal crash that took Ramon's life 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.
The prime minister 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.
Netanyahu added that in his time, his parents did not know that he was serving in the Israel Defense Forces' elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit in which his brother Yonatan also served until he was killed in Operation Entebbe in 1976.
"My two brothers and I were together in the same unit. My parents didn't know where I served or any of the risks we took."
Probe of crash to focus on human error
The main focus of the investigation into Sunday's crash is on human factors, and there is a high probability that some physiological problem may have led to the crash.
Barak told Israel Radio on Monday that news of Ramon's crash "hit me like a punch to the stomach."
Barak also addressed the issue of allowing the children of bereaved parents to serve in combat units, saying "it rends the heart when things like this happen. These are not children - these are young men who were educated with values. They want to serve in the most demanding places. You can't take this right away from them."
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, meanwhile, directed schools to devote a lesson this week to the family of Ilan and Asaf Ramon.
In a letter to school principals, Sa'ar called the Ramon family a "prime example of volunteerism, excellence, self-sacrifice."
Sa'ar noted that the items astronaut Ilan Ramon took with him into space (a Torah scroll and an Israeli flag) reflected Ramon's ties to his Jewish and Israeli roots.
Sa'ar suggested the class discussion could refer to historical events such as the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, in which Ilan Ramon took part, and the fatal 2003 crash of the space shuttle Columbia.