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Anyone who grew up here has seen it a thousand times: a white trail in the blue sky. And anyone who grew up here knows the feeling as well: it's one of our own in that white trail. Ilan Ramon was one of our own. No Yuri Gagarin, no Neil Armstrong - but he was ours.

Made of the building blocks of Blich high school and flight training, from a past that connected the Holocaust and the nuclear plant in Iraq. With a captivating smile and a charming family, with a defiant patriotism and boy-scout naivete, our guy took with him into space a small Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust, and a drawing of earth made by a small boy murdered in Auschwitz, the president's banner and that of Blich high school and a T-shirt reading "stop road accidents."

For 16 days we had one of our guys in space. And since he ascended in a white trail into the great blue skies of Cape Kennedy in mid-January, Ilan Ramon told us that when he orbits above, he sees how tiny and beautiful we are, and how thin the atmosphere that makes our life possible really is. And this country, so accustomed to cynicism, looked up to its man in space. This country, so used to looking down on itself, held its breath at the prospect of a different reality, that of a country that can defy the gravity of its fate. Yesterday afternoon the sky was filled with white trails.

And this chaotic tiny land was once again united in the feeling that one of its own was in those white trails. Those white trails held our alternative reality. And this hope that keeps shattering, the hope of freeing ourselves from our gravitational destiny, of floating in some weightless normalcy in utter disregard of the gravity of our existence.