Israel’s First Astronaut: A Tale of Tragedy and Miracle
The unforgettable legacy of a national icon and his son.
June 30, 2013 - 7:00 am
In 2007 Lieutenant Colonel Ze’ev Raz, who was the leader of the eight-man attack force that included Ilan Ramon, told a journalist:
[N]one of us thought—not even in the IDF General Staff—that we would all come back alive…. Maybe some of us would come back, but we were sure there was no way that everyone would. So as far as each of us, individually, was concerned, it was our last day on earth.
…And yet things happened there that to this day we have no explanation for. For instance, according to all calculations the Iraqi radar systems were supposed to have spotted us at least 15 minutes before the bombing despite the fact that we flew at very low altitude.… Of course it was a miracle. How is it possible that even after we bombed the reactor not one plane tried to down us?
I’ll tell you something else: It takes an hour and a half to get back from Iraq to Israel and we were flying 40,000 feet above the ground. The General Staff originally wanted us to carry out the bombing after sunset so it would be harder for the Iraqis to attack us on the way back. But I was opposed to that. I thought if we did the bombing after sunset there wouldn’t be enough light and our planes would miss their target—so I insisted that the bombing take place before sunset.
As a result, we flew back as the sun was setting. But since the planes were traveling at such a fast speed, the sun was out all the time and never set. It was as though it remained standing in the middle of the horizon.
At that time we pilots all radioed each other reciting the same exact biblical verse—Joshua 10:12: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, over the Valley of Ayalon….”
They were referring to Joshua’s behest that the natural powers come to a halt so that the Israelites could triumph in battle.