Is There Faith in Space?

May 1, 2024

I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C., and one of the best parts about living so close to the nation’s Capital was the incredible number of museums that were essentially in my backyard. And not just any museum – but free museums – which definitely made weekend activities an easy win for my family. The display of First Lady Dresses at the American History Museum and the life-like Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum were always highlights of our weekend outings. However, the exhibit that captivated me the most was the walk-through Skylab Space Shuttle Exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. It was easily my favorite museum as a kid, and that exhibit was magical. Something about seeing how real life could exist in outer space – everything from the exercise bike the astronauts used to stay fit to the “beds” they slept in and even the artifacts from earth that they brought on their missions – it simply blew my mind. 

Nowadays, when I think back to those visits, one astronaut in particular sticks out in my mind. His memory is especially important during a time when staying authentic to your religion is more important than ever. This astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was the first Israeli Astronaut to fly into space and who, tragically, died on the Columbia Space Shuttle Mission in 2003. 

The story of his faith, even in the farthest of spaces (yes, pun intended), is inspiring. 

In January 2003, Ilan Ramon joined six other astronauts on board the Columbia space shuttle, which exploded on its way toward landing. An amazing thing about Colonel Ramon was that this wasn’t his first experience flying a heroic mission for his country. In fact, Ilan bravely fought for Israel as a combat pilot in both the Yom Kippur War in 1973 as well as in the First Lebanon War in 1982. In 1981, Ilan flew on an incredibly daring mission to bomb the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor: facing an existential threat from Saddam Hussein, he was the youngest pilot on the mission at that time. He and his fellow pilots grouped their fighters to make a single silhouette, fooling the enemy into mistaking the type of plane and allowing them to strike deep into enemy territory on behalf of the West. 

When the 2003 Columbia Mission began, Ilan put his religious conviction and faith at the forefront of his space service. Though not an observant Jew himself, Ilan still ordered Kosher-certified meals for the two-week trip to space. Amongst his personal belongings, Ilan brought a Hebrew Bible, an Israeli flag, and historical items from the Holocaust. One of these was a Torah Scroll, which miraculously survived the death camp Bergen Belsen, along with its owner.

It’s humbling to imagine Ilan’s packing list for this flight. Haircut? Check. Space suit? Check. Freeze-dried Kosher food? Check. Torah Scroll that survived the Holocaust? Check. 

But for Ilan Ramon, it was no question that when he courageously went to space on a mission to further humanity, his faith would accompany him into this new battle. 

Of course, we find echoes of this holy mentality in the Hebrew Bible. The Tabernacle, or the temporary Home for the Israelites to be close to God, was built during the Israelites’ years of wandering in the desert. In addition to its purpose as a “House of Worship,” it also served as a spiritual anchor in uncertain times. 

This is the initial commandment for how the Ark, the piece of the Tabernacle that held the Ten Commandments, was meant to be carried through the camp. It traveled in the front, and would even be brought out into battle, where Moses would proclaim that God would help scatter the enemies of the Israelites! And when the battle was won, Moses would proclaim once again to God. I’m imagining a Marvel comic “Bible edition” where each nation has its own superpower. For the Israelites? They have the Ark of the Covenant! Of course, the people backed by the Bible and by God win every time. 

The Book of Numbers isn’t the only time that the Israelites used the Ark of the Covenant in times of trouble. In Joshua 6, the Ark is carried around the city of Jericho prior to the Israelite conquest of the city, and in Samuel 1, the Israelites once again bring the Ark into battle with them – even noting that bringing it along had the potential to save them in their war against the Philistines. This idea – of bringing our closeness to God with us into harsh circumstances – is emphasized again and again.

Ilan Ramon carried the Torah Scroll and other religious items into space. And the Israelites carried them into battle. Let me be clear about just how important this statement is. This is not the same as what modern-day social justice warriors hold onto to protect them. Social media, unstable beliefs, and trends all lack depth. They are not grounded in anything except for the fleeting whims of popular opinion. In contrast, courageously and proudly carrying faith into all spaces, holding onto the belief that there is something more powerful than any human or astronaut on any planet – and that belief in God and the ways of the Bible is the ultimate act of heroism. Ilan’s legacy lives on. In Israel, his example is taught in classrooms throughout the country – especially as it relates to his Bible – as a reminder to bring our faith with us, always.

This article is part two in a seven week series on Heroic Jewish People in the Modern Day and Biblical Times.
Read about the first hero, here.

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
God’s Conscious Concern for the Land
Bread or Dreams?
The Thirty-Five Davids and Two Thousand Goliaths

Related Articles

By: Rabbi Elie Mischel

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email