Beloved educator and son of former Netanyahu aide among 5 reservists killed in Gaza

School principal Yossi Hershkovitz remembered by colleagues, students in Israel and abroad; TV producer Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, 38, from Odem, best known for work on ‘Fauda’

A photo showing members of the 551st Brigade’s 697th Battalion, four of whom were killed by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in the Beit Hanoun area on November 10, 2023 (Courtesy)
A photo showing members of the 551st Brigade’s 697th Battalion, four of whom were killed by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in the Beit Hanoun area on November 10, 2023 (Courtesy)

Five Israeli reserve soldiers were killed during fighting in the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Saturday evening, bringing the death toll of soldiers killed during Israel’s ground operation in Gaza to 42.

Of the five soldiers, four were members of the 551st Brigade’s 697th Battalion and were killed by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in the Beit Hanoun area. The troops were not inside the tunnel.

The IDF identified them as Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, and Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin.

Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel Harush, a soldier in the Givati Brigade’s logistics unit, was killed in a separate incident inside Gaza on Friday.

Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter

Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter, 39, served in the IDF reserves as a paramedic and was due to start a training placement at a hospital as part of his studies to become a doctor.

Leiter is survived by a wife and six children, the youngest of whom is under three months old.

Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter (Israel Defense Forces)

His father, Yehiel Leiter, was a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to Israeli news outlet Israel Hayom, the elder Leiter said that Netanyahu had called him to pay his respects after learning about his son’s death.

“When the prime minister called me this evening to console me, I told him only one thing: ‘Bibi, my son’s blood was not shed in vain. Finish this job. Don’t let any pressure in the world stop you. Because the only consolation of this loss is banishing evil,'” he recounted.

Alongside his medical studies, Leiter had been involved in a program dedicated to training ultra-Orthodox men in computer science, preparing them to draft to the IDF’s prestigious Unit 8200.

“Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox soldiers who are now serving in the army and will later join the high-tech market passed under his hand,” Ishay Cohen, the CEO of the Netzach Yehuda organization, which assists ultra-Orthodox men in drafting to the IDF, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, 44, was the principal of the ORT Pelech High School for boys in Jerusalem, and lived in the West Bank settlement of Gva’ot, in the Gush Etzion bloc.

Hershkovitz had also worked in the past as a teacher at SAR Academy, a New York Jewish day school, and as an educator at Camp Moshava, a Modern Orthodox US summer camp.

“Yossi was a beloved administrator, a first-rate educator, a man of the people, full of love and giving, who saw in front of him the path to doing good and creating a brighter and better world,” said the CEO of the ORT network, Tzvika Peleg.

“The ORT family will remember Yossi and will continue to integrate his values and faith and desire to complete and enhance his educational life’s work.”

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz (Israel Defense Forces)

Hershkovitz’s work as principal of ORT Pelech saw him forge connections with the Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne, Australia, which sends students on a nine-week exchange program to ORT Pelech each year.

“The Mount Scopus community mourns the devastating passing of IDF Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, who fell in battle in Gaza,” the school wrote in a statement on social media. “Yossi was the much admired principal of the Ort Pelech Boys’ School in Jerusalem… our thoughts are with his wife Hadas and their five children. May his memory be a blessing.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion eulogized Hershkovitz, saying, “The late Yossi was a man of kindness and truth, a family and community man, and an educator who professionally and dedicatedly educated hundreds of the city’s children.”

Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir

Television producer Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, 38, from Odem in the Golan Heights, was best known for his work on the award-winning Israeli television show “Fauda,” the third season of which was set inside the Gaza Strip.

“We are absolutely devastated to share that one of our very own Fauda family members, Matan Meir, was killed in action in Gaza,” read a post shared in English on the official Fauda Instagram page. “Matan was an integral part of the crew for all 4 seasons of Fauda. The entire cast and crew are completely heartbroken by this tragic loss. We would like to extend our condolences to Matan’s family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.”

Speaking to Israeli news outlet Ynet, “Fauda” star Lior Raz eulogized Meir as a “man with a heart of gold.”

“I loved you, Matan. You were always here for me at every moment… you just wanted to help and be here for others,” he said.

Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir (Courtesy)

Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin

Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin, 32, lived in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona and is survived by his parents and brother.

On October 20, Shmerkin shared a video to Facebook of the IDF’s ongoing ground operation in Gaza, writing: “Proud to be a part of this, the Nation of Israel lives!”

Kiryat Shmona Mayor Avichai Stern eulogized Shmerkin, who worked as a real estate agent in his hometown, and said that representatives from his office had paid their respects to his family.

“Sergey was a warrior at heart and loved Kiryat Shmona and the State of Israel very much,” he said. “It pains my heart to say goodbye to an ambitious young man full of dreams that he will not get to realize.”

Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel Harush

Jerusalem native Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel Harush, 34, was abroad on October 7 when Hamas invaded southern Israel, and immediately fought to get a flight back to Israel in order to serve, his sister Orit Alon told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday morning.

Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel (Nati) Harush (Israel Defense Forces)

“He cared about what was happening here. He put his soul into everything he did. He had a huge heart,” she said. “On the day of his funeral, I would love for the people of Israel to come. The people of Israel are alive and strong.”

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