This view is 'something that only a few get to experience'

New exhibit of astronaut Ilan Ramon diary opens at Israel Museum

Diary that survived space shuttle crash displayed alongside and compared to fragments of biblical Book of Enoch

Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. (NASA)
Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. (NASA)

The diary of Israel’s first astronaut, who perished in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, went back on display in a new exhibit that opened at the Israel Museum Tuesday.

The painstakingly reconstructed page fragments that survived the disintegration of the spacecraft and its fiery crash to earth, and that contain some of Ilan Ramon’s final personal thoughts and feelings, are being displayed alongside fragments of the Book of Enoch.

The exhibit “Through Time and Space” compares Ramon to the biblical Enoch, who the book of Genesis says “walked with God, and he was no more, because God had taken him.” The Fragments of the Book of Enoch were part of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery that are also on display in the museum, and similar recovery techniques were used on Ramon’s diary.

Ramon was killed along with the other six crew members when the Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. Fragments of his personal diary were found months later in a field in Texas and were returned to Israel.

The remains of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon’s diary that went on display at the Israel Museum, May 21, 2019. (Ramon Family Foundation Facebook page)

The 37 pages of the diary were first displayed at the museum in 2008 as part of the museum activities marking Israel’s 60th anniversary.

The new exhibit was encouraged by Ramon’s late wife Rona, who earlier this year was posthumously awarded The Israel Prize for lifetime achievement. The museum curators saw the similarities between the remains of the space diary and the fragments of the Enoch Scroll, which were discovered in the mid-20th century.

From Ilan Ramon’s diary (Israel Museum)

Both the Enoch scroll and the Ramon diary were found with the text barely visible. Special techniques were used to stabilize the scroll and reconstruct the writing. Similarly, extraordinary measures were taken to prevent deterioration of the pages of Ramon’s diary and to decipher their meaning.

According to the curators of the exhibit, “the greatest similarity … lies in the tone of these two ‘astronauts,’ who were equally amazed by the sights they beheld and by the profound privilege of witnessing them. Enoch says, ‘So I saw the vision of the end of everything alone; and none among human beings will see as I have seen’ (1 Enoch 19:3). Thousands of years later, Ilan Ramon spoke from space and said, ‘[This view] is… something… that only a few get to experience.'”

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