(April 3, 2019 / JNS) Rona Ramon will be posthumously awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s highest cultural honor, announced Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday.
Ramon, the wife of the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia space shuttle explosion in 2003, died in December after a long battle with cancer.
Born in Kiryat Ono in 1964, she served as a paramedic in the Israel Defense Forces’ Paratroopers Brigade. She married Ilan at the age of 22, six months after they met at a birthday party.
She studied physical education and worked as a sports instructor, and was also an activist who advocated for education and the advancement of Israeli youth.
Ramon’s husband was also part in the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.
Their eldest child, Capt. Asaf Ramon, an IAF pilot, lost his life in a training accident nine years ago. A brand-new airport in Eilat was named for them both.
The Ramon family remarked that although “the prize holds no comfort, it does carry a lot of pride.”
“Our mother was able to take a life which was painful and turn it to a life-long mission that gives other people hope,” said her children—Yiftah, Noa and Tal—in a press release.
The Israeli-American Council said that Rona Ramon “was an inspiration and shining example of strength for the Jewish people.”
“Her legacy continues through our IAC Gvanim Ramon leadership program, named for Rona Ramon and created to empower Israeli-American and Jewish American female leaders,” said IAC co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet. “Rona Ramon’s values endure in the women of IAC Gvanim Ramon, who carry the torch of leadership and community building. We could not think of someone more fitting to receive the Israel Prize.”