Before St.-Sgt. Matan Gotlib went into Gaza, the 21-yearold soldier wrote a letter to his family.
“I just wanted to say that all is fine and I’m thinking about you,” he wrote. “I miss the scene of the dining room table with all sides full on Friday. It’s hard for me to write anything deep because I choke with tears when I think about you. I miss you a great deal. Lots of love, Matan.”
Gotlib – who was killed while searching for terror tunnels with the Maglan unit in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis on Wednesday – was buried on Thursday in the military cemetery in his hometown of Rishon Lezion.
The Maglan commando unit specializes in operating behind enemy lines.
His brother Omer spoke of his admiration for his younger brother and his dedication to his country.
“Matan smiled a lot, always loved to help, loved the country and loved to travel through it in his jeep,” Omer told Ynet.
“He was an active person, he was in the Scouts, and he always wanted to be in a combat unit. He said he was ready to die for the country, and he knew it was very dangerous.”
Other friends and family also mourned his loss.
“Parents and friends are sitting here since yesterday, shocked that they have lost their handsome son,” Gotlib’s uncle told Channel 2 news.
“He was my sister’s youngest son. A boy who loved to hike and go on outings. He’d go north in his jeep and go hiking with his friends. We still cannot accept this news.”
The girlfriend of one of Gotlib’s brothers said the family had spoken with him two days ago, and he had talked of how the morale in the army was very high despite the difficult operational circumstances.
“His parents received the news when they were at work,” she said. “Their world is destroyed. He wasn’t at home for the whole of the last month, and they were very anxious.
Every phone call would frighten them.”
She said Gotlib had been looking forward to being released from the army in three months and that he had said he was looking forward to life without a gun.
He is survived by his parents and two brothers.
St.-Sgt. Omer Hay, 21, from Savyon, who was killed in the same exploded building collapse as Gotlib, was buried on Thursday as well.