Ilan Ramon, the air force colonel who is the first Israeli to fly on a space shuttle mission, is carrying with him a miniature Torah scroll that, along with its owner, survived the Holocaust.
Ramon, who is part of a 16-day mission aboard the space shuttle Columbia, has made several gestures to dedicate his flight to solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people.
The Torah scroll belongs to Yehoyahin Yosef, a professor of planetary physics at Tel Aviv University. Yosef, who is working with Ramon on a scientific experiment aboard the shuttle, is a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
When he was a young boy in the camp, Yosef was given a miniature Torah scroll by a rabbi who shared his barrack. The rabbi, who died in the camp, taught Yosef from the Torah, preparing him for his bar mitzvah at age 13.
While at Yosef’s home to discuss the experiment two years ago, Ramon apparently noticed the scroll and asked if he could take it, along with a journal of Yosef’s, on the flight.