Listen, I’m shocked.

Next Sunday, a royal ceremony will be held in memory of the astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia that tragically perished in 2003, including Israel’s hero, Lieutenant Colonel Ilan Ramon.

This year’s ceremony, marking the 20th anniversary of the disaster, was moved from Saturday to Sunday specifically to allow representatives from Israel and the Jewish community to attend. But today, I found out that no official representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Consulate in Miami will be present at the ceremony!

If that doesn’t shock you enough, let me tell you that in previous years, the Consulate’s representative also didn’t attend because the ceremony fell on a Saturday.

After banging my head against the wall several times, I called the Consulate, and they confirmed that they won’t be attending, citing a lack of budget for travel expenses. Can you grasp this? No budget to attend the ceremony.

The travel distance from Miami to the ceremony is approximately two and a half hours by car. The budget for such a trip would amount to roughly a tank of gas, costing $80, an Israeli flag for the ceremony, and someone to sing the national anthem. But apparently, the Consulate lacks funds for that.

Only at the last minute, when the organizers learned that no Consulate representative would be present, did they contact me today, requesting that I attend to represent the Israeli citizens and honor the memory of Israel’s hero, Lieutenant Colonel Ilan Ramon. They asked me to pay tribute to him, a well-deserved honor that should have been bestowed upon him all this time.

So, next Sunday, with the Israeli flag and a bouquet of flowers, I will stand proud to represent you all with great respect. As an Israeli citizen, I will pay tribute to Ilan Ramon and express our appreciation for his service to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

For those who may not know, in addition to being Israel’s first astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Ilan Ramon also took part in Operation Opera, where he piloted his F-16 that bombed the nuclear reactor in Iraq.

I made sure there will be a singer to perform a touching rendition of “Hatikvah” at the ceremony, shaking the very ground and filling us all with Israeli pride, just as Ilan would have wanted to see from above.

Dear brother, watch over us from above; we are proud of you.

May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life, and may his memory be blessed forever.

Joe Zevuloni.