Also Wednesday, the Israeli memorial center for the Holocaust opened an exhibit to show the original of a 1943 drawing by a 14-year-old victim of the Holocaust, a copy of which Ramon carried into space.
Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli air force, died with six U.S. astronauts when the Columbia disintegrated Saturday on re-entry, minutes before it was to land. Thousands of pieces of the shuttle were scattered around hundreds of square miles of Texas and Louisiana, where searchers found remains of some of the astronauts. "NASA informed us officially that Ilan Ramon, may his name be blessed, was identified, and we can bring him for burial in Israel in the coming days," said Brig. Gen. Rani Falk, an Israeli air force attache in Washington. "This is a relief to all of us, especially the family."
NASA officials said Wednesday the recovered remains would be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification. NASA spokesman Al Feinberg was not able to confirm the report that Ramon's remains had been identified. "I have no knowledge of that," he said.
The issue of identification of Ramon's body is crucial for the family. According to Jewish religious practice, immediate family members observe a weeklong period of mourning, called "shiva," after a relative's burial. However, if the body cannot be found, the period of mourning must await a rabbinical ruling that the person is dead.
Ramon's body was one of four sets of remains that have been positively identified, Israel Radio reported. Chief Army Rabbi Israel Weiss said that samples from all the body parts were taken for DNA testing, which had yielded a "clear, positive" result that identified Ramon's remains. Israel TV reported that after a ceremony in the United States, Ramon's body would be brought to Israel for burial next week.
Ramon's father, Eliezer Wolferman, said that not all of his son's remains had been found. On Tuesday, a resident of Vernon Parish, La., found fabric bearing a blue Star of David on a silver background, according to the local sheriff. Israeli newspapers reported the cloth was from an Israeli air force flag that Ramon had taken with him.
Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial and research center for the Nazi Holocaust, on Wednesday opened a display of "Moon Landscape," which was drawn by a 14-year-old Czech Jew, Peter Ginz, in 1943 before he was killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Ramon, whose mother and grandmother survived Auschwitz, carried a copy of the drawing with him--not the original as had earlier been reported, said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. "When we came across 'Moon Landscape,' we knew that we had something personally relevant for Ramon," Shalev said.
NASA officials told Ramon's family that the astronauts had between 60 and 90 seconds between the time that they could see something had gone wrong and the shuttle broke into pieces, Wolferman said. "These seconds are always spinning around in my head," Wolferman said. "It's very difficult, as if I'm with them and I try to imagine what they went through. One second is like 20 years. I can't explain it, it's hell, hell in the sky."