As funerals for soldiers killed in battle over the weekend were held throughout Israel, the Israel Defense Forces announced that seven more ground troops and officers had died on Monday. As family, friends and fellow soldiers gathered to mourn the fallen, there was a determined resolve that was palpable everywhere.
One of the soldiers was identified as Staff Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, of the Golani brigade and from Kfar Saba, where his funeral was held in the early evening. The identities of the others have not yet been released. Monday’s battles brought the toll in “Operation Protective Edge” to 25 since Thursday, when the IDF began its ground incursion into Gaza. More than 100 have been wounded and taken to hospitals.
Throughout the day, there were signs of certain solidarity all around the country—with the families and friends of the fallen, with soldiers on duty, and with the millions of Israelis who continued to be subjected to missile fire and underground tunnel attacks by Hamas terrorists.
More than 20,000 mourners gathered at an 11 p.m. funeral in Haifa for Sgt. Sean Carmeli, the Texas-born Golani soldier who was killed in fighting on Saturday. Fans of the Maccabi Haifa basketball team had posted a note on their Facebook page, which by early evening had acquired 25,000 “Likes” and shared more than 10,000 times: “Sean Carmeli was a lone soldier, and we don’t want his funeral to be empty.”
The post also invited readers to the military cemetery in Haifa’s Neve David neighborhood “to come give final honors to a hero who was killed so that we can live.”
The name of the seventh of 13 Golani brigade troops killed over the weekend was released by the IDF. Moshe Malko, 20, a Jerusalem native, was laid to rest today at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in the nation’s capital. He is survived by eight siblings. The other six soldiers whose names have been released are: Maj. Tsafrir Baror, 32, of Holon; Capt. Tsvi Kaplan, 28, of Kibbutz Meirav; Sgt. Gilad Yacoby, 21, of Kiryat Ono; Sgt. Oz Mendelovich, 21, of Atzmon; Carmeli; and Max Steinberg of Beersheba. Carmeli and Steinberg, hail from Texas and California.
As funerals were held and announcements of new casualties were made, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the country spent the day comforting mourners and assisting those under attack. In addition to the work of shluchim, thousands of Chabad families in the southern towns continued to reach out and lift the spirits of soldiers and individuals living near Gaza.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Aharonov, director the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Israel, again emphasized the importance in encouraging Jewish men everywhere to don tefillin, pointing to the “Tefillin Campaign” launched by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—before the Six-Day War in 1967, noting that: “The nations of the world will see that the name of G‑d is called upon you, and they will fear you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10)
‘They Want to Go Back’
As the number of wounded grew, so did the number of visits to soldiers sent to Israeli hospitals.
Rabbi Aharon Prus of the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Israel spent much of the day with soldiers at the Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. “Our purpose is to encourage the soldiers, who are literally placing their very lives on the line to protect the Jewish nation living in Israel. They represent us all, and our job is to encourage them so they can do what they need to do and come home.”
“Even though they lost comrades, their desire to succeed does not end,” continued Prus. “I just left the hospital—there are funerals today and more tomorrow, but they want to get better and continue their work where they left off. It’s amazing.”
Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project, also spent the entire the day with the wounded at Soroka Hospital. Reflecting on today’s funerals, Kutner noted that “it’s so very sad and tragic. The people are very tough, but everybody knows that, in Israel, if you want to stay safe, we need to pay a very, very expensive price.”
“It’s the situation every few years in Israel, and if our soldiers fail, there’s no chance to be in another situation. Hamas wants to kill us—men, women, children—everybody.”
“We know that everyone is thinking about the soldiers,” Kutner continued, “and praying that G‑d will save them, and that they will come back alive and healthy. One wounded soldier asked me to take his name and pray for him. He said, ‘Pray for me onShabbat, and think about me and my friend.”
“People can do a special mitzvah for the soldiers … we all need to be doing something special.”