Five IDF soldiers laid to rest

Maj. Benji Hillman, killed on Thursday near Avivim, wed just 3 weeks ago.

ran yehoshua kochava 298 (photo credit: IDF)
ran yehoshua kochava 298
(photo credit: IDF)
Five funerals were underway throughout Israel on Friday for five IDF soldiers, killed in the line of duty since Wednesday. First Sergeant Yotam Gilboa, 21, was laid to rest in his hometown of Maoz Haim late Friday morning. Gilboa was killed on Wednesday in a heavy cross-border battle with Hizbullah across from Avivim in the northern Galilee. On the day following Gilboa's death, four additional soldiers from an elite unit were also killed in the very same place. Five others were wounded in the battle. As of midday Friday, only three of those names were approved for publish: Maj. Benji Hillman, 27, from Ra'anana, First Sergeant Muskal Refanael, 21, from Mazkeret Batya and 21-year-old First Sergeant Nadav Baeloha from Karmiel. Benji Hillman was buried in Ra'anana on midday Friday. He was a company commander in the elite Egoz unit. Hillman's family immigrated to Israel in the early 80s from England. He was married just three weeks ago and had not even managed to go on a honeymoon or move into an apartment that he and his wife bought in Modi'in One of Hillman's new relatives, on his wife's side of the family, told Israel Radio that Hillman was a gentle person, "one out of tens of thousands." The relative emphasized Hillman's dedication to his surroundings, to his soldiers, to his family. The relative related that the newlyweds planned a honeymoon to Thailand, but would never be able to fulfill those plans. Muskal Refanael's funeral was held at 2:30 p.m. in Mazkeret Batya. Refanael was survived by his parents, two sisters and a brother. Israel Radio reported that only two days before his death, he sent a message to his brother, urging his family not to worry, "we are in our own territory," he reassured. Nadav Baeloha was buried in Karmiel at 2 p.m. Israel Radio reported that although he was not originally deemed fit to serve in a combat unit, he insisted on joining the prestigious unit, so as not to be "a draft-dodger." Upon telling his mother that he was accepted to Egoz, she reportedly collapsed, believing that something bad would happen to her son. IAF pilot Maj. Ran Yehoshua Kochava, 37, from Beit Hananya was killed in Thursday night's helicopter accident near Moshav Ramot Naftali in the northern Galilee. His funeral took place at 3 p.m. at Givat Shaul in Jerusalem. The accident occurred as two helicopters collided on their way to an operation in Lebanon. The three other pilots were injured in the accident, one seriously, one moderately and the third lightly.