By: Sean Savage
Since Israel was founded in 1948, its numerous wars have taken a heavy toll on its small population. With mandatory conscription, most Israelis have lost someone on the battlefield—whether it be a relative, friend, community member, or someone they know more indirectly—and each sacrifice is highly personal.
The past year has been even more taxing than usual for the Jewish state, given last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. During the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Operation Protective Edge, which started as an air campaign before its ground phase targeted Hamas’s network of terror tunnels running under the Israeli border, 66 IDF soldiers were killed.
The sobering cost of Israel’s military reality is reflected annually on the Hebrew calendar date of the fourth of Iyar, which marks Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day). Established unofficially in 1948 and then officially in 1963, it is commemorated in conjunction with Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), which falls on the following day. This year, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut come April 22-23.
“We didn’t think it would be easy when we decided to reclaim our right to national self-determination after 2,000 years,” Paul Hirschson, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told JNS.org.
“Since the establishment of Israel we have been forced to defend ourselves on too many an occasion,” he said. “This past year, tragically, was no different. Again, some of the finest of our children, friends, and colleagues had to pay with their lives to secure that elementary right to national self-determination. We grieve their loss deeply yet remain, always, resilient with a view to the future: building, innovating, creating, and confident that we will one day live in both peace and security.”
Using information compiled by the Foreign Ministry, JNS.org looks back at the Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in Operation Protective Edge and in other incidents since last Yom Hazikaron.
July 18, 2014
Just a day after Israel began its ground operation to dismantle Hamas’s terror tunnels, the IDF experienced its first casualty of Operation Protective Edge—Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, of Herzliya, who was killed in Beit Hannun in the northern Gaza Strip.
July 19, 2014
Four Israeli soldiers were killed in combat. Two soldiers, Maj. (res.) Amotz Greenburg, 45, of Hod Hasharon, and Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, of Nahariya, were killed by a terrorist who infiltrated through a tunnel near Kibbutz Kissufim. Staff Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, of Holon, and Second-Lt. Bar Rahat, 21, of Ramat Yishai, were also killed in operations in Gaza.
July 20, 2014
In the bloodiest single day of fighting during Operation Protective Edge, 13 Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed in fighting in and around the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in eastern Gaza. The following soldiers, including two American “lone soldiers,” lost their lives that day:
Maj. Tsafrir Bar-Or, 32, of Holon
Capt. Tzvi Kaplan, 28, of Kibbutz Meirav
Staff Sgt. Gilad Yaakobi, 21,of Kiriat Ono
Staff Sgt. Oz Mendelovitch, 20, of Atzmon
Staff Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmelli, 21, of Ra’anana (originally from South Padre Island, Texas)
Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, of Jerusalem
Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, of Be’er Sheva (originally from Los Angeles)
Staff Sgt. Shachar Tase, 20, of Pardesiya
Staff Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, of Kfar Azar
Sgt. Shon Mondshine, 19, of Tel Aviv
Sgt. Ben Oanounou, 19, of Ashdod
Staff Sgt. Oren Noach, 22, Poriah Illit
Sgt. Oron Shaul, 19, of Poriah Illit
July 21, 2014
On the third-bloodiest day for Israel during Operation Protective Edge, nine Israeli soldiers lost their lives. Four were killed by a Hamas terrorist who infiltrated through a Gaza terror tunnel. An additional three Golani Brigade soldiers died in Shujaiyeh, and two more were killed in other battles. The following soldiers lost their lives that day:
Lt. Col. Dolev Keidar, 38, from Modi’in
Sgt. Nadav Goldmacher, 23, from Be’er Sheva
Warrant Officer Baynesain Kasahun, 39, from Netivot
1st Lt. Yuval Heiman, 21, from Efrat
Staff Sgt. Jordan Ben Simon, 22, from Ashkelon
Staff Sgt. Tal Ifrach, 21, from Rishon Letzion
Staff Sgt. Yuval Dagan, 22, from Kfar Sava
Staff Sgt. Oded Ben Sira, 22, of Nir Etzion
Master Sgt. Ohad Shemesh, 27, of Beit Elazari
July 22, 2014
Two Tank Corps officers and a paratrooper were killed: Capt. Dimitri Levitas, 26, of Jerusalem, Lt. Natan Cohen, 23, of Modi’in, and Staff Sgt. Evyatar Tourjeman, 20, of Beit Shean.
July 23, 2014
Three paratroopers were killed after entering a booby-trapped house in Khan Yunis: Lt. Paz Eliyahu, 22, of Kibbutz Evron, Staff Sgt. Li Mat of Eilat, 19, and Staff Sgt. Shahar Dauber, 20, of Kibbutz Ginegar.
July 25, 2014
Four Israeli soldiers lost their lives: Master Sgt. (res.) Yair Ashkenazy, 36, of Rehovot, Staff Sgt. Guy Levy, 21, of Kfar Vradim, Staff Sgt. Guy Boyland, 21, from Kibbutz Ginosar, and Staff Sgt. Amit Yaori, 20, of Jerusalem.
July 26, 2014
Second Lt. Roy Peles, 21, of Tel Aviv, Staff Sgt. Avraham Greentzweig, 21, of Petah Tikva, Staff Sgt. Gal Besson, 21, of Holon, and Sergeant First Class (res.) Barak Refael Degorker, 27, of Gan Yavne, were all killed in combat.
Capt. Liad Lavi, 20, of Talmei Yosef, and Chief Warrant Officer Rami Kahlon, 39, of Hadera, died from wounds sustained in previous days.
July 28, 2014
Ten Israeli soldiers lost their lives in the second-bloodiest day for the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Four soldiers were killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border, one was killed in combat in southern Gaza, and five were killed by a terrorist who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel to launch a terror attack. The following soldiers died that day:
Staff Sgt. Eliav Eliyahu Haim Kahlon, 22, of Safed
Cprl. Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, of Netivot
Staff Sgt. Adi Briga, 23, of Moshav Beit Shikma
Cprl. Niran Cohen, 20, of Tiberias
Staff Sgt. Moshe Davino, 20, of Jerusalem
Sgt. Nadav Raimond, 19, of Shadmot Dvora
Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, 18, of Tzofim
Sgt. Barkey Ishai Shor, 21, of Jerusalem
Sgt. Sagi Erez, 19, of Kiryat Ata
Sgt. Dor Dery, 18, of Jerusalem
July 30, 2014
Three Israeli soldiers from the Maglan unit died in fighting in southern Gaza:
Staff Sgt. Guy Algranati, 20, of Tel Aviv
Staff Sgt. Matan Gotlib, 21, of Rishon LeZion
Staff Sgt. Omer Hay, 21, of Savion
July 31, 2014
Five soldiers of the 188th “Barak” (Lightning) Armored Brigade were killed by mortar fire on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza:
Capt. Omri Tal, 22, of Yehud
Capt. (res.) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, of Azuz
Sgt. Maj. (res.) Daniel Marsh, 22, of Rishon LeZion
Staff Sgt. Shai Kushnir, 20, of Kiryat Motzkin
Staff Sgt. Noam Rosenthal, 20, of Meitar
August 1, 2014
Three Israeli soldiers of the Givati Brigade were killed fighting terrorists in southern Gaza:
Maj. Benaya Sarel, 26, of Kiryat Arba
Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba
Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, of Jerusalem
August 31, 2014
Sgt. Shahar Shalev, 20 of Alonei Habashan, a soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade, died from wounds he sustained during operations in southern Gaza on July 23.
November 10, 2014
Sgt. Almog Shilony, 20, of Modi’in, was attacked by a Palestinian terrorist at Tel Aviv’s HaHagana train station. He was stabbed multiple times by the assailant and later died of his wounds.
January 28, 2015
Capt. Yohai Kalangel, 25, and Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini, 20, were killed in an attack by Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border. An anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah struck an IDF vehicle in the Har Dov region, killing those two soldiers and injuring seven.
Operation Protective Edge also highlighted the unique sacrifice made by Israel’s “lone soldiers”—the term for non-Israelis who voluntarily join the IDF while their families live abroad.
Sgt. Max Steinberg
A Los Angeles native who was part of the IDF’s elite Golani Brigade, Steinberg was one of 13 Israeli soldiers killed in the heavy fighting in Shujaiyeh on July 20, 2014. Approximately 30,000 Israelis attended Steinberg’s funeral, making it one of the largest in the history of the Mount Herzl military cemetery. He was subsequently honored by thousands at a memorial in Los Angeles.
Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli
A native of South Padre Island, Texas, the 21-year-old Carmeli was also among the 13 soldiers killed in Shujaiyeh on July 20. In response to a widespread social media campaign to honor him, some 20,000 people packed the military cemetery in Haifa for Carmeli’s funeral on July 21.
Cpl. David Menachem Gordon
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Gordon was found dead in central Israel last August, with gunshot wounds and his army-issued assault rile by his side. The circumstances surrounding Gordon’s death led to presumptions that he committed suicide, but the IDF has never confirmed that.