Ariel Bilya, 28, was murdered by Hamas terrorists as he protected his family in Ofakim on October 7.
He is survived by his wife, Shoshana, their two children, Avishag, 7, and Tzuriel, 5, as well as his parents and siblings.
The couple and their children were spending the holiday in Ofakim together with their extended family — Ariel’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and their four children — 11 people in all. When they awoke from the air raid sirens Saturday morning, they all gathered together in one room. Then they heard gunshots outside and panicked, and later heard terrorists trying to break into their home.
One by one 10 of them — including a newborn baby — headed out the window, crossed to their neighbor’s roof and hid in an enclosure that housed a solar water heater. Only Ariel stayed behind, picking up a metal rod in the room to try and fight off the invading terrorists. Ultimately, he was shot dead while trying to escape out the window. The rest of his family survived and were rescued from the roof hours later, discovering only then that Ariel had been killed just meters away.
“It’s a tragic miracle,” his sister-in-law, Michal, who was with Ariel and his family in Ofakim, told the Walla news site. “We were at one funeral instead of 11. The ending is sad and happy together,” she said, describing Ariel as “the little brother and the happiest and funniest in the family.”
Taliya Bilya, his cousin, wrote on Instagram that he was “the kind of guy whose smile never left his face, Ariel was always there for everyone and the first to help.”
Ariel’s brother, Guy Bilya, who was among those hiding on the roof, told Channel 13 news that he was the life of every party: “He would always make every event happier, every family gathering, he would infuse it with his joy, and his fun and his lightheardness and his chill.”
His wife, Shoshana, wrote on Facebook that she was desperately waiting to see him again, praying every day for his return.
“I’m waiting for you, waiting to see you. My heart still believes that you will come back, you have to convince God up above to give you an opportunity to come home,” she wrote. “You need to tell the story of your bravery yourself, how you thought of every detail, how you acted calmly and decisively, took care of all of us but endangered yourself.”
Shoshana said that every night their daughter Avishag says “‘I want Dad to come back, I want Dad to put me to sleep’… she laughs and says that ‘every time Dad came to put me to bed he would fall asleep before me.'”
She wrote that Ariel was scheduled to head to reserve duty in the IDF a day after the attack, “and today I folded the uniform you never wore… every part of my body aches, I keep pinching myself hard to check that it’s real — every morning I wake up and I stick out my hand to feel you and you’re not there… and then the horrific reality sets in.”