Memorial Day

Israel marks Memorial Day after year with fewest ever deaths in war and terror

Three Israelis — two civilians and one soldier — were killed in violent attacks since last year

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Family and friends attend the funeral of IDF soldier Amit Ben-Ygal at the cemetery in the central city of Beer Yaakov, May 12, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Family and friends attend the funeral of IDF soldier Amit Ben-Ygal at the cemetery in the central city of Beer Yaakov, May 12, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Three Israelis — a soldier and two civilians — were killed in violent, nationalistic attacks over the course of the past year, by far the lowest number in the country’s history.

This bittersweet distinction comes as Israel on Wednesday commemorated Memorial Day, remembering the 23,928 people recognized as having fallen on behalf of the state since 1873.

Over the past year, 112 names have been added to that list — 43 of them active servicemembers and 69 who were recognized as having died of wounds sustained in wars or terror attacks. Those 112 people includes those killed in accidents or died of illness over the past year, as well as people who died years ago but have only now been officially recognized as having died of injuries related to their military service or an attack.

Of those, only three were killed in violent attacks in the past year: Esther Horgen, Rabbi Shay Ohayon and Staff Sgt. Amit Ben-Ygal.

Esther Horgen, 52, was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

Horgen was killed on December 20 in a brutal terror attack outside her settlement of Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank. According to the indictment against her suspected murderer, Muhammad Mruh Kabha, Horgen went out for a walk when she was attacked by Kabha, who had been hiding out in the woods outside Tal Menashe, waiting for a victim.

According to the indictment, Kabha ran after her and knocked her to the ground. Horgen, a mother of six, tried to fight him off but he pinned her down and then repeatedly hit her over the head with large rocks, causing her to bleed and breaking bones in her arms and chest, until she stopped moving. Her body was found in the early hours of the next morning after her husband, Benjamin, reported her missing.

Ohayon, a father of four, was stabbed to death in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva on August 26 by a Palestinian man, Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, who had a permit allowing him to work in Israel.

Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack at Segula Junction on August 26, 2020 (Courtesy)

Ben-Ygal, who served in the Golani Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion, was killed during an arrest raid in the Palestinian village of Yabed on May 12. As his unit was moving through the village, a Palestinian man, Nizmi Abu Bakar, allegedly threw a brick at Ben-Ygal, striking him in the face and fatally wounding him. Ben-Ygal was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of his injuries a short while later.

These three deaths are the smallest number of fatalities from combat and terror attacks, by far, in the history of Israel, a country that regularly sees conflicts and attacks both from neighboring countries and from Palestinian terrorist groups.

In 2019, the year with the second-fewest fatalities, 11 people were recognized as victims of terror attacks or combat, including one woman, Nina Ganisdanova, who succumbed to injuries she sustained the previous year in a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.

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