Last Friday, The Jewish Week conducted an exclusive interview with Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, live via satellite from the space shuttle Columbia. Following are excerpts:
Jewish Week: Shalom, Ilan. How’s it going up there?
Ramon: Shalom. Fine
So how you are getting along with the other astronauts up there?
Not so great.
No? Why not?
Well, first of all, this captain … he doesn’t know how to drive. The first day we’re up here he’s going so slow, so carefully … all these satellites are passing us by. I think we can make it around the Earth in six, seven hours, not 10. I tell him move over, let me drive.
He says no way. Something about Israeli drivers, I don’t know.
I see. Any other difficulties?
Well, the first night, it comes time to pick out our sleeping areas. The captain assigns us each an area. I’m just getting comfortable, settling into my area, and they say I have to give it up. Seems someone else declared I was occupying their area. They took a vote, called me an aggressor, called on me to move.
Not yet. I demand a complete cessation of all this noodging and complaining before I will give up my area. Then we will have bilateral talks with NASA and arrive at a plan … The media, of course, will blame me for the whole thing.
Sounds complicated, Ilan. Any other problems?
Well, I am having withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal? From what?
Smoking and talking on my cell phone … Wait a minute … hold on …
Ilan, are you there?
OK, I’m back.
It was just Shabbat. But now it’s over. The next one doesn’t start for 16 minutes. Go ahead.
OK, tell us, Ilan. How do you think the Palestinians have reacted to your history-making journey?
I think they are fine with it.
Sure. In fact I just heard Arafat say on the news that he’d like to see even more Israelis launched into space, and would be glad to help.
Look at the bright side. He’s given up trying to push us into the sea.
Yes …Well, Ilan, we understand that some special food has been prepared for you. How is it?
The freeze-dried falafel? Really not the same. And squeezing a shwarma sandwich from a tube doesn’t quite do it for me either. But you have to make some sacrifices. The Tang made from Jaffa oranges is pretty good.
Well, our time is almost up. Anything you want to say to the people back home?
Yes, of course. Our new national slogan, now that we’ve finally made it into space.
And what would that be?
Am Yisrael High!!!
See real story of Ilan Ramon in space on page 4.