Row by row, Israel remembers its fallen heroes

24,068 IDF soldiers, police officers, prison wardens, Shin Bet security service and Mossad agents have been killed since 1860.

Remembrance Day 2022 (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Remembrance Day 2022
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Row by row, section by section, soldiers and families stood to attention for two minutes to honor those who gave their lives for the State of Israel. 

Graves of troops who fell defending Israel were adorned with flags, wreaths, letters, poems and stones. And at each grave gathered family members, friends, and troops who told stories of their loved ones. 

In total, 24,068 IDF soldiers, police officers, prison wardens, Shin Bet security service and Mossad agents have been killed since 1860 defending the pre-state Yishuv and Israel. That number also includes members of the pre-state militias and the Jewish Brigade, who served in the British army during World War II. 

In the past year, 56 IDF soldiers and security personnel died serving the State, and 84 IDF veterans who were injured during their service died from their injuries. Since the end of March, 15 Israelis were killed in terror attacks.

In the cemetery of Beer Yaakov in central Israel are a dozen graves of fallen troops. Among them lay St. Sgt. Solomon Gavriya and St.-Sgt. Amit Ben Yigal, both killed by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank.

 In the military cemetery of Beer Yaakov. (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM) In the military cemetery of Beer Yaakov. (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Gavriya, who served in the Border Police, was killed in 2017 after a Palestinian gunman opened fire on the entrance gate to the community of Har Adar. He was killed along with two private security guards, Youssef Ottman and Or Arish.

Born in Ethiopia, he moved to Israel in 1999. 

“My son was a hero,” said his father Mahret Gavriya. “He loved the country and when he drafted into the IDF he enlisted in the Border Police. He chose this and I accepted it.”

After he finished his basic training, he was deployed to the Jerusalem area where he was lightly injured in an attack just a year before he was killed. He was stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist in his shoulder on a Saturday during a patrol along the fence of Har Adar, where he was killed a year later.

“Thank god he was able to fend off the attacker,” Mahret said. “But I got scared and wanted him to switch positions, even to be a jobnik, but he didn’t want to. He told me ‘I don’t leave my friends alone in the field.”

His brother Yohannes told the Post that “he was very committed” to serving his country.

 Solomon Gavriya (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) Solomon Gavriya (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

“He was very kind to his family and friends. He was very strong and very special. He always trusted in God that everything will turn out good,” he said. “He was so committed that even when he had the chance to stay at home after the first attack, he didn’t. He went back to serve his country and he lost his life.”

Tal Ben-Nafshi knew Amit Ben Yigal for 12 years. 

“A friendship that lasted over 12 years is a strong friendship,” he said. 

“Amit was a special guy. He was so loved and he knew how to connect with everyone. Everyone. From the weakest kid in the class to the strongest kid. Everyone loved him and he really knew you, he knew everyone.” 

 Grave of Amit Ben Yigal  (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM) Grave of Amit Ben Yigal (credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Explaining that the name Amit means friend, Ben-Nafshi said that “he was like his name. Whenever you needed him, he was there and he did everything for you.”

Ben Yigal was 21 years old when he was killed during an overnight arrest raid in the West Bank town of Yabed in May 2020. 

“His love for Israel is what symbolized him. He could have done any position in the army but he went to combat and fought for the country. And he gave his life for our flag and country,” Ben-Nafshi said. “He really loved our country. We are proud of him for that.”

Two years after his death, he said it’s still very hard to be without him. 

“It’s very hard. It’s very hard to be without him and he’s still very loved, even after his death. People loved him. And we really miss him,  every moment of every day.”