Gaza War Means a Particularly Sobering Yom Hazikaron for Israel this Year

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.” (Isaiah 62:6)

By: Sean Savage

Since Israel was founded in 1948, its numerous wars have taken a heavy toll on its small population. With mandatory conscription, most Israelis have lost someone on the battlefield—whether it be a relative, friend, community member, or someone they know more indirectly—and each sacrifice is highly personal.

The past year has been even more taxing than usual for the Jewish state, given last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. During the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Operation Protective Edge, which started as an air campaign before its ground phase targeted Hamas’s network of terror tunnels running under the Israeli border, 66 IDF soldiers were killed.

The sobering cost of Israel’s military reality is reflected annually on the Hebrew calendar date of the fourth of Iyar, which marks Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day). Established unofficially in 1948 and then officially in 1963, it is commemorated in conjunction with Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), which falls on the following day. This year, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut come April 22-23.

“We didn’t think it would be easy when we decided to reclaim our right to national self-determination after 2,000 years,” Paul Hirschson, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told JNS.org.

“Since the establishment of Israel we have been forced to defend ourselves on too many an occasion,” he said. “This past year, tragically, was no different. Again, some of the finest of our children, friends, and colleagues had to pay with their lives to secure that elementary right to national self-determination. We grieve their loss deeply yet remain, always, resilient with a view to the future: building, innovating, creating, and confident that we will one day live in both peace and security.”

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Using information compiled by the Foreign Ministry, JNS.org looks back at the Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in Operation Protective Edge and in other incidents since last Yom Hazikaron.

GAZA

July 18, 2014

Just a day after Israel began its ground operation to dismantle Hamas’s terror tunnels, the IDF experienced its first casualty of Operation Protective Edge—Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, of Herzliya, who was killed in Beit Hannun in the northern Gaza Strip.

July 19, 2014

Four Israeli soldiers were killed in combat. Two soldiers, Maj. (res.) Amotz Greenburg, 45, of Hod Hasharon, and Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, of Nahariya, were killed by a terrorist who infiltrated through a tunnel near Kibbutz Kissufim. Staff Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, of Holon, and Second-Lt. Bar Rahat, 21, of Ramat Yishai, were also killed in operations in Gaza.

July 20, 2014

Some dozens of thousands of Israelis attend the funeral of IDF soldier Nissim Sean Carmeli, from Texas, at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Monday, July 21, 2014. Carmeli was killed in Northern Gaza Strip on July 20th during clashes with Hamas militants during the Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: FLASH90)
Some dozens of thousands of Israelis attend the funeral of IDF soldier Nissim Sean Carmeli, from Texas, at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Monday, July 21, 2014. (Photo: FLASH90)

In the bloodiest single day of fighting during Operation Protective Edge, 13 Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed in fighting in and around the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in eastern Gaza. The following soldiers, including two American “lone soldiers,” lost their lives that day:

Maj. Tsafrir Bar-Or, 32, of Holon

Capt. Tzvi Kaplan, 28, of Kibbutz Meirav

Staff Sgt. Gilad Yaakobi, 21,of Kiriat Ono

Staff Sgt. Oz Mendelovitch, 20, of Atzmon

Staff Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmelli, 21, of Ra’anana (originally from South Padre Island, Texas)

Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, of Be’er Sheva (originally from Los Angeles)

Staff Sgt. Shachar Tase, 20, of Pardesiya

Staff Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, of Kfar Azar

Sgt. Shon Mondshine, 19, of Tel Aviv

Sgt. Ben Oanounou, 19, of Ashdod

Staff Sgt. Oren Noach, 22, Poriah Illit

Sgt. Oron Shaul, 19, of Poriah Illit

July 21, 2014

On the third-bloodiest day for Israel during Operation Protective Edge, nine Israeli soldiers lost their lives. Four were killed by a Hamas terrorist who infiltrated through a Gaza terror tunnel. An additional three Golani Brigade soldiers died in Shujaiyeh, and two more were killed in other battles. The following soldiers lost their lives that day:

Lt. Col. Dolev Keidar, 38, from Modi’in

Sgt. Nadav Goldmacher, 23, from Be’er Sheva

Warrant Officer Baynesain Kasahun, 39, from Netivot

1st Lt. Yuval Heiman, 21, from Efrat

Staff Sgt. Jordan Ben Simon, 22, from Ashkelon

Staff Sgt. Tal Ifrach, 21, from Rishon Letzion

Staff Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, from Kfar Sava

Staff Sgt. Oded Ben Sira, 22, of Nir Etzion

Master Sgt. Ohad Shemesh, 27, of Beit Elazari

July 22, 2014

IDF Capt. Dmitri Levitas
Capt. Dimitri Levitas

Two Tank Corps officers and a paratrooper were killed: Capt. Dimitri Levitas, 26, of Jerusalem, Lt. Natan Cohen, 23, of Modi’in, and Staff Sgt. Evyatar Tourjeman, 20, of Beit Shean.

July 23, 2014

Three paratroopers were killed after entering a booby-trapped house in Khan Yunis: Lt. Paz Eliyahu, 22, of Kibbutz Evron, Staff Sgt. Li Mat of Eilat, 19, and Staff Sgt. Shahar Dauber, 20, of Kibbutz Ginegar.

July 25, 2014 

Four Israeli soldiers lost their lives: Master Sgt. (res.) Yair Ashkenazy, 36, of Rehovot, Staff Sgt. Guy Levy, 21, of Kfar Vradim, Staff Sgt. Guy Boyland, 21, from Kibbutz Ginosar, and Staff Sgt. Amit Yaori, 20, of Jerusalem.

July 26, 2014

Second Lt. Roy Peles, 21, of Tel Aviv, Staff Sgt. Avraham Greentzweig, 21, of Petah Tikva, Staff Sgt. Gal Besson, 21, of Holon, and Sergeant First Class (res.) Barak Refael Degorker, 27, of Gan Yavne, were all killed in combat.

Capt. Liad Lavi, 20, of Talmei Yosef, and Chief Warrant Officer Rami Kahlon, 39, of Hadera, died from wounds sustained in previous days.

July 28, 2014

Ten Israeli soldiers lost their lives in the second-bloodiest day for the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Four soldiers were killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border, one was killed in combat in southern Gaza, and five were killed by a terrorist who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel to launch a terror attack. The following soldiers died that day:

Staff Sgt. Eliav Eliyahu Haim Kahlon, 22, of Safed

Cprl. Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, of Netivot

Staff Sgt. Adi Briga, 23, of Moshav Beit Shikma

Cprl. Niran Cohen, 20, of Tiberias

Staff Sgt. Moshe Davino, 20, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Nadav Raimond, 19, of Shadmot Dvora

Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, 18, of Tzofim

Sgt. Barkey Ishai Shor, 21, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Sagi Erez, 19, of Kiryat Ata

Sgt. Dor Dery, 18, of Jerusalem

July 30, 2014

Three Israeli soldiers from the Maglan unit died in fighting in southern Gaza:

Staff Sgt. Guy Algranati, 20, of Tel Aviv

Staff Sgt. Matan Gotlib, 21, of Rishon LeZion

Staff Sgt. Omer Hay, 21, of Savion

(L-R) SSgt. Omer Chai, SSgt. Guy Algranati, Sgt. Matan Gotlib
(L-R) SSgt. Omer Chai, SSgt. Guy Algranati, Sgt. Matan Gotlib

July 31, 2014

Five soldiers of the 188th “Barak” (Lightning) Armored Brigade were killed by mortar fire on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza:

Capt. Omri Tal, 22, of Yehud

Capt. (res.) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, of Azuz

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Marsh, 22, of Rishon LeZion

Staff Sgt. Shai Kushnir, 20, of Kiryat Motzkin

Staff Sgt. Noam Rosenthal, 20, of Meitar

August 1, 2014

Hadar Goldin
Hadar Goldin

Three Israeli soldiers of the Givati Brigade were killed fighting terrorists in southern Gaza:

Maj. Benaya Sarel, 26, of Kiryat Arba

Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba

Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, of Jerusalem

August 31, 2014

Sgt. Shahar Shalev, 20 of Alonei Habashan, a soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade, died from wounds he sustained during operations in southern Gaza on July 23.

TEL AVIV

November 10, 2014

Sgt. Almog Shilony, 20, of Modi’in, was attacked by a Palestinian terrorist at Tel Aviv’s HaHagana train station. He was stabbed multiple times by the assailant and later died of his wounds.

IDF solider Almog Shiloni who was killed in a terror attack on November 10, 2014.
IDF solider Almog Shiloni who was killed in a terror attack on November 10, 2014.
(Photo: Hillel Maeir/ Tazpit News Agency)
Funeral of IDF soldier Almog Shiloni (Photo: Hillel Maeir/ Tazpit News Agency)

ISRAEL-LEBANON BORDER

January 28, 2015

Capt. Yohai Kalangel, 25, and Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini, 20, were killed in an attack by Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border. An anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah struck an IDF vehicle in the Har Dov region, killing those two soldiers and injuring seven.

LONE SOLDIERS

Operation Protective Edge also highlighted the unique sacrifice made by Israel’s “lone soldiers”—the term for non-Israelis who voluntarily join the IDF while their families live abroad.

Sgt. Max Steinberg

A Los Angeles native who was part of the IDF’s elite Golani Brigade, Steinberg was one of 13 Israeli soldiers killed in the heavy fighting in Shujaiyeh on July 20, 2014. Approximately 30,000 Israelis attended Steinberg’s funeral, making it one of the largest in the history of the Mount Herzl military cemetery. He was subsequently honored by thousands at a memorial in Los Angeles.

Max Steinberg
Max Steinberg

Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli

A native of South Padre Island, Texas, the 21-year-old Carmeli was also among the 13 soldiers killed in Shujaiyeh on July 20. In response to a widespread social media campaign to honor him, some 20,000 people packed the military cemetery in Haifa for Carmeli’s funeral on July 21.

Cpl. David Menachem Gordon

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Gordon was found dead in central Israel last August, with gunshot wounds and his army-issued assault rile by his side. The circumstances surrounding Gordon’s death led to presumptions that he committed suicide, but the IDF has never confirmed that.