The tragedy "goes against every single thing we were taught at home and in the gan [kindergarten]," said a Jerusalem-area woman, an Israeli-born daughter of Holocaust survivors who grew up in the United States and for whom the shuttle launch had rekindled memories of the fevered excitement that space flight had generated in the otherwise gravely troubled America of the 1960s.
"We were told that under no circumstances do we leave the bodies of the fallen in the field. When did we last leave people going up in flames in a metal box that belongs to someone else, where they turn into ashes? In Auschwitz. I thought we didn't do that anymore. That's what they told me. That's why I'm here. Because we don't do that anymore. So how could something like this have happened?"
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.