Tragedy Underscores 'Incredible Bond' Between US, Israel

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

( - "We still pray and hope," said Dan Gillerman, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, who called this a "terribly, terribly tragic day for all of us."

'This is not just an Israeli astronaut," Gillerman said, referring to Israeli Air Force Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli to take part in a U.S. space shuttle mission.

"This is a very special person...who carries with him the hopes, the aspirations of Israel at a very difficult time, when this in a way brought a ray of hope and light and something positive into a very difficult situation we are in."

Fate has its way of delivering messages, Gillerman said, noting that Ramon - the son of Holocaust survivors - brought with him on board the space shuttle the drawing of a 10-year-old Jewish boy who perished at Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, during World War II.

"Ramon took it up to space as a sign of life prevailing over death, of good prevailing over evil," Gillerman said.

The fact that Ilan apparently perished along with six American astronauts "a manifestation and a testimony to the incredible bond between the U.S. and Israel - a bond of excellence, a bond of hope, a bond of freedom and of bravery..."