Israel Chana, a 30-year-old civilian from Ofakim, was killed while battling terrorists trying to infiltrate into the town on October 7.
Chana, who worked as a private security guard for a bank, was out walking his dog with his girlfriend, Shahaf Rozolio, early Saturday morning — his 30th birthday — when air raid sirens began to ring. The two sought shelter near his home, but soon realized that the rockets were hardly the only threat.
Rozolio recounted to Channel 13 News Chana’s heroic actions that morning, after they began to hear nearby gunshots while hiding out from the rockets fired from Gaza.
“Everyone started to panic and hide and Israel and I were standing on the street and suddenly we saw [the terrorists],” she recalled. “Israel didn’t think twice, he went to go get his personal weapon… and went with another 15 or so civilians and started to search for the terrorists.”
Rozolio said he left the house in flip flops and with just 15 bullets in his pistol against heavily armed swarms of terrorists.
She never heard from him again. A day later, she said, she felt she needed to search for answers, leaving her house to try and find a trace of him. “I saw his flip-flop lying in a pool of blood, and I understood that something not good happened.”
A neighbor came out to tell them that she had seen his body and covered it up with a blanket, but they did not want to believe her. Five days later, the official word came down that his body had been identified and his death confirmed.
Rozolio said that the neighbor later told them that she saw Chana “alone against a cell of terrorists” and that he was running and hiding and shooting at them, “getting their focus on him so that they wouldn’t infiltrate into houses… he killed one terrorist and he seriously wounded another,” stopping them from entering nearby homes.
She said that people came to the shiva mourning period and told her and his family that “if he wasn’t there, things would look very different in Ofakim, he really saved a whole neighborhood.”
At a memorial marking 30 days since his death, his mother, Yishi Chana, told the Davar newspaper that her sense of loss was enormous.
“Israel was my second son and the pillar of our home,” she said, adding “I have no words” repeatedly. “It’s very hard. I don’t know how I can go to sleep, how I can wake up in the morning, how to live. But I have to, I have three other children.”
Chana, of Ethiopian descent, was among the activists calling to bring back Avera Mengistu, the Israeli-Ethiopian citizen who has been held captive in Gaza since 2014.
His friend, Solomon Samay, wrote on Facebook that they were fighting to have his story of bravery told across the country.
“Israel, I miss our conversations, we had deep talks about life, family, children and home,” wrote Samay. “And we also had nonsense conversations where we would laugh and every dumb joke. I miss your contagious laughter, your characteristic smile and our meetings where we would just sit and spend time together. Israel, my dear brother, I miss you so much and I don’t know how to accept this, you were like a little brother to me.”
Rozolio told Channel 12 that Israel “would always help others with all his heart, would bring joy and light to every place he went. He brought me so much joy in life. We were talking about getting married, starting a family. He was the man of my life. He always put himself last.”
Israel’s brother, Avraham Chana, shared a photo of the balloons that were waiting for Israel at home for his birthday.
“I am struggling to find the worlds,” he wrote. “October 7 is not just a date it’s your birthday and we brought you presents and got you a cake… my hero, watch over us from above, I love you my brother.”