Rona Ramon who passed away yesterday at age 54 is a great example of how unique Israelis are. After losing her husband, Ilan, the first Israeli astronaut, who died during the Columbia Space Shuttle cash in 2003, Rona was left alone with 4 children. Six years later, Rona lost her oldest son, Asaf, an Israeli F-16 pilot, who died in a plane crash at the age of 22. After losing both husband and son in such devastating circumstances, Rona made the hard decision to keep on going. Not only for her 3 children but for the State of Israel. Months after her son’s death, Rona founded the ‘Ramon Foundation’ that aims to ignite the three essential values which Ilan and Asaf Ramon stood for – academic excellence, social leadership, and groundbreaking courage. The motto of the foundation is: TO DARE, TO DRIVE, TO INSPIRE, TO SEIZE YOUR DREAM.
This is how Rona chose to deal with her own personal tragedy.
According to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Israel is ranked number 11 among the world’s happiest countries. When looking at the countries ranked higher, it makes perfect sense that countries like Finland (#1), Norway (#2) and Denmark (#3) are on the top of the list. These are beautiful, rich countries, with strong economies and zero security threats. In comparison, Israel, a small country, surrounded by enemies, dealing with huge gaps in society and the high cost of living. How does it make sense that Israelis are so happy!?
I want to suggest that the key to Israelis happiness is how they deal with unhappiness.
We all know that it’s impossible to be happy all the time, therefore, we must learn to live with unhappy moments. Due to Israel’s complicated reality, Israelis are constantly dealing with unhappy moments and real-life challenges so must learn to keep moving forward and try to stay positive and happy.
Rona Ramon was not the only one who made the brave decision to keep living after such personal tragedy, another example of the Israeli way of dealing with tragedy is recent Israel prize winner, Miriam Peretz. After losing her sons, Uriel and Eliraz in two separate wars, and her husband Eliezer of heartbreak, Miriam began assisting bereaved families and army wounded and became a national hero. Since then she became known as the “mother of the soldiers,” voluntarily lecturing to teenagers, soldiers, and the public around the world to share her life story, leadership, and motivation.
These two amazing women may be extraordinary, but they represent the Israeli way of dealing with loss and tragedy. They represent the Israeli desire to keep on living even when the reality is difficult.
A personal story from my IDF service during the Second Lebanese war in 2006, is another example of this unique Israeli way of dealing with a tough reality. in-between military operations behind enemy lines, we were given some time to rest at a nearby Kibbutz. Instead of taking the time to relax, we decided to sneak into the local swimming pool. It was midnight and we had no towels or bathing suits, but that didn’t stop us from jumping over the fence and diving into the refreshing water. As we were swimming, missile sirens went off and loud voices of explosions were heard from near-by. The sky was lit by missile traces and the air smelled from smoke, but this didn’t stop us as we all kept swimming and laughing. Although in mediate danger, I’ve rarely felt so alive. This was one of the best moments of my life.
Focusing on the positive, keeping the right perspective when facing difficult reality, and caring for each other is the Israeli secret to happiness.
RIP Rona Ramon, our nation turns its happy eyes to you.