Father of fallen IDF soldier: I have nothing, he was my whole world

Sergeant First Class Amit Ben Yigal was killed Tuesday morning after a large rock struck his head during an arrest raid in the West Bank

First Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal (photo credit: FACEBOOK VIA MAARIV)
First Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal
(photo credit: FACEBOOK VIA MAARIV)
“He was my only son. I have nothing else, he was my whole world,” the father of Sergeant First Class Amit Ben Yigal cried hours before his son was laid to rest on Tuesday, Israel’s first soldier killed this year.
Ben Yigal was killed during an overnight arrest raid in the West Bank town of Yabed and buried Tuesday evening in the military cemetery of Be’er Ya’acov, with hundreds in attendance.
Ben Yigal, 21 years old from Ramat Gan, was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class.
“You were supposed to bury me Amit. I wasn’t supposed to bury you. I wasn’t supposed to bury you,” his father Baruch said at the funeral. “I loved you from the first moment I saw you when you came into the world.
“My father lies 20 meters from you. He will look after you. My mother is also here and she will also look after you,” Baruch said, speaking through tears. “Until today at 6:30 in the morning I was a happy man. Your closet is full of new clothes. Stand and wear them. You’re my son Amit. I’m broken. I’m broken. I don’t know what to do abuya [my son] I’m broken. My child you promised to take care of yourself and where are you now?
“I paid a heavy price. I am alone, totally alone ya abuya. I’m alone... what can I say abuya, you left me alone. At 6:30 in the morning I became another person. I still can’t comprehend it. You called me akbar aba [a great father], but now I’m nothing. I’m no longer an akbar Aba. I’m broken. I hope I was a good father. I hope I hope I hope ya abuya. God give me the strength to get up in the morning.”
His mother Nava said that she had woken up at 5:15 a.m. saying “Baruch Dayan Haemet”, the traditional Jewish phrase marking death, but when she heard the knocks on the door she screamed at them to go away.
“No! Go away from here!! That’s it. My life has changed. My eldest son, your sisters don’t understand what is going on,” she said. “Oy Amit. You called me last night that you were going to do an operation and I told you to take care of yourself. Why, why? This stone changed everything. My son is below the ground. This past Remembrance Day I never thought the feeling would follow me throughout the year. Amit, my son, my love, my life.”
His girlfriend Osher Hanum, who was barely able to finish her eulogy through her tears, said “You said you would take care of yourself last night and where are you now? You are buried... where are you…?”
In attendance at the funeral was Defense Minister Naftali Bennett who represented the government, Labor leader Amir Peretz who is a friend of the family and hundreds of troops. All in attendance wore masks.
Earlier in the day his father Baruch, in an interview with Reshet Bet, said that he was their only son and had insisted on serving in Golani.
He told the radio station that his son asked to join a combat unit after visiting death camps in Poland. “I said to him, Amit, you are my only son, you have to understand what this means. He responded that we have no other country and I went with him to Tel Hashomer to sign – and I told him how proud I was of him.”
“I signed the form... I signed the consent form for my only son. He wanted Sayeret Golani... What can I tell you?”
Troops from the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion had been carrying out a series of arrests in the village early Tuesday morning and had detained four wanted Palestinians – two suspected of involvement in a terrorist organization, and two suspected of throwing stones.
At around 4.30 a.m., after completing the arrests, troops began to leave the village when a group of 10 locals began throwing stones towards the troops who were making their way out of the village by foot.
After two stones were thrown at the troops, it is believed that the suspect took the opportunity to drop the rock on Ben Yigal’s face as he was looking up with his rifle to identify who was throwing the stones. While two soldiers opened fire towards the roof, they were unable to identify who threw the deadly rock.
According to IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman, the large rock was thrown from the roof of one of the homes on the outskirts of the village as troops were leaving the village. “The rock hit the soldier directly in the head,” Zilberman told reporters. “The soldier was wearing a helmet. But it hit him at an angle.”
Ben Yigal received treatment from medics at the scene before being evacuated to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center’s intensive care unit by helicopter, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Throughout the day IDF troops carried out a large scale manhunt for the Palestinian responsible for throwing the stone. Troops, including from the elite Duvdevan unit and the Shin Bet, canvassed the area of the attack, questioned residents and arrested several family members. Palestinians reported that clashes broke out in the village as troops carried out additional arrests, injuring dozens.
The IDF said a total of 10 Palestinians have been arrested in connection with the deadly attack.
In a post on Facebook that he wrote in honor of Daniel Pomerantz last Remembrance Day, a Golani fighter killed during Operation Protective Edge, Ben Yigal wrote about his pride to serve in the unit.
“To be Golanchik is to see the landscape from the bus window, and to know that you marched there too. It’s to curse the moment you are living in, and in the same breath remember why you are here. It is not letting who you are, interfere with who you could become. To be a Golanchik is to sit on gear while looking at each other’s eyes and just laugh because you are both going through the same thing. It’s a deep friendship which is always surprising... to look at the soldiers with the red berets when you have red eyes. To be Golanichik is not to look back, because you always have a whole country behind you,” he wrote.
“I, Amit Ben Yigal, am proud to be a Golanchik. Proud to take part in a long-standing tradition like Golani. Proud to be the continuation of many drafts before and to be a role model to those after.
“For the past two years, I mark Remembrance Day in a different uniform from civilians. This time I’m in the soldier’s uniform with the beret and representing something. And suddenly the words have meaning, acts have consequences,” he continued.
“I am relating personally to events and thinking if anything were to happen to me, what would happen? And right away the tears come down trickling down my face... then the tears are no longer a trickle – they are a waterfall and I must make them stop, for I am in uniform.”
His girlfriend, Osher, took to Instagram earlier in the day to mourn Ben Yigal who she said was supposed to be released from the IDF in two months.
“He was an amazing individual, and he loved the country so much. On Remembrance Day, he said that if he died, then he died for the state. Last night he had to turn off the cellphone, and I told him I didn’t want to hang up, and he told me he loved me and promised to come back next weekend,” she wrote. “He was murdered, he did not die, he was murdered. They murdered him!
He loved the military, he fought to be in Golani and sacrificed himself for the state.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the family and said that, “like what has happened in all cases in recent years, Israel’s long arm will find the terrorist.”
Bennett, who also extended his condolences to the family, promised that the IDF would catch the “despicable” terrorists responsible for Ben Yigal’s death and “we will settle accounts with them.”
President Reuven Rivlin also sent his condolences to the Ben Yigal family, saying that “we are heartbroken in the face of the bright youth who was cut down in his prime. I am confident that our forces will find the despicable terrorists and bring them to justice.”
Hamas praised the attack and claimed that Palestinians are fighting against Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
“The incident proves the ability of our people in the West Bank to continue their struggle against the occupation until the Israeli military and the settlements are pushed out,” the group said in a statement, adding that the “resistance” will continue despite American support for Israel.
Two years ago, Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky from the elite Duvdevan Unit was killed after he was hit in the head by a large marble slab thrown from the roof of a nearby building by Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid, a 32-year-old resident of the Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah. Hamid was convicted of murder last April and sentenced to life in prison.