Ilan Ramon with his F-16
Ilan Ramon with his F-16Israel news photo: Flash 90/archive

A Jewish day school in California has been renamed in memory of the first Israeli astronaut, the Israeli Air Force website reported on Thursday.

According to the report, the Heschel West School which is located in a suburb of Los Angeles will be known starting in the upcoming school year as the Ilan Ramon Day School. The school’s principal recently made the announcement of the name change in a special Kabbalat Shabbat dinner.

Ilan Ramon, who was one of the eight F-16 pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, was also the first Israeli astronaut. He was killed when the space shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entering the earth’s atmosphere in 2003.

“Ilan Ramon was both an Israeli and an American hero,” said school principal Yuri Hronsky when he revealed the new name. “He embodied many of the values we care about: family, community, research, learning and love of Judaism. He believed in the study of the hidden potential, as we believe in finding the hidden potential in every child.”

The name change is taking place in time for the school’s 18th birthday, about which Hronsky said, “As we begin our eighteenth year, it is a good time to move forward with a new identity.”

The IAF’s website added that the announcement of the new name was preceded by a committee which carried out extensive research into finding a name that captures the spirit of the school and its values. In addition, the students and their families were surveyed and were given the opportunity to express their views regarding the most appropriate name. Finally, in May, it was decided to name the school after Ramon.

“I think the new name clearly reflects our desire to move forward, start over and explore new areas,” said Bruce Friedman, chairman of the school’s board. “The new name symbolizes the essence of our belief in ethics, morals and values, and expresses the preparation of our students to confront future challenges.”

Last year it was announced that the airport that will be built at Timna, near Eilat, will be named after Ilan Ramon and his son, Assaf.

Assaf, like his father, was also an IAF pilot. He was killed in a training accident two years ago.