Today was the first day that I felt that I am truly living in space. I have become a man who lives and works in space.” (Ilan Ramon, on the final day of his journey into space, Feb. 1, 2003)
Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut in outer space, was killed in the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia mission in February, 2003. His only son, Assaf, died in a routine IAF training mission in 2011.
Last week Rona Ramon, widow of Ilan and mother of Assaf, laid the cornerstone for an international airport to be known as the Ilan and Assaf Airport, in memory of her beloved family.
“I tried so many ways to memorialize him, and after the second accident, of Assaf, I took it to another place. This is something far beyond the name, a lot more beyond the symbolism and value,” she said.
Ramon International Airport will be built eleven miles north of Eilat and will replace the current airport there. Its runway will be longer (11,800 feet) which will allow large airplanes to land and to depart for European destinations.
Jordan has expressed its adversity to the new airport. The Islamic Action Front, Jordan’s largest opposition group which supports the destruction of the State of Israel, views the airport as “challenging to Jordanian sovereignty and undermining national security.” Civil aviation chief Mohammed Quraan warned that Jordan would take “any measure if the new Israeli airport issue is not resolved.”
Yigal Palmor, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, said that the Israeli government is “familiar with the issue” (of the planned airport), “and it is being dealt with through diplomatic channels.”