From Ben-Gurion’s Vision to Ramon’s Legacy
By Vicki Cobb
Here, he is a household name, a national hero in the eyes of these bright students. Nine years after his untimely death, Ilan Ramon, the first and only Israeli to travel to space, is a powerful inspiration for the hundreds of Israeli students reaching for the stars.
On my recent trip to Israel, I witnessed the dedication of the Frank Family Aerospace Center at The Zimmetbaum High School in Arad, one of the schools in the ORT network. Dr. Charlotte K. Frank, a board member of the America –Israel Friendship League and Senior Vice-President of McGraw-Hill and its generous benefactor, launched a fully equipped computer classroom, planetarium and roof observatory to encourage today’s high school students to dream big.
Today, February 1st, 2012 is the ninth anniversary of the shuttle Columbia’s ill-fated reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere after a fifteen-day mission at the International Space Station. All seven of its astronauts perished, including payload specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli Astronaut. Ilan’s mission sadly was never completed. On that Saturday afternoon, as two nations were holding their collective breaths, the Columbia mission came to its tragic end.
Ramon has become a contemporary Jewish hero and a symbol for Israel’s prominence in science and technology. For Israelis, they see Ramon’s legacy as a continuation of its founder, David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion’s vision for Israel emphasized excellence in science and technology as essential for the survival of the Jewish State. He felt that Israel’s place in the world would be defined by its achievements in science..
Today, Ben-Gurion’s vision is realized in Israel’s high-tech entrepreneurship, second only to Silicon Valley. The recently announced partnership between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to create a state-of-the-art applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City is just the latest example of foreign investment in Israel’s “Silicon Valley East.”
Ilan Ramon was a product of the Israeli education system, and a model for the nation’s values. From my recent visit to Israel I learned that when it comes to being pioneers, Israelis are not only cultivating the arid land, but also not afraid to reach for the stars. Ilan Ramon’s legacy lives on.