Those We Have Lost

Lt. Yoav Malayev, 19: Wrote letter to his girlfriend in final moments

Killed battling a Hamas invasion of the IDF Zikim base on October 7

Lt. Yoav Malayev (IDF)
Lt. Yoav Malayev (IDF)

Lt. Yoav Malayev, 19, an officer in the 7th Armored Brigade, from Kiryat Ono, was killed battling Hamas terrorists at the Zikim IDF base on October 7.

He is survived by his parents, Maya and Alex, his younger siblings Talia, Avner and Harel, and his girlfriend, Einat. He was buried on October 9 in Tel Aviv.

His uncle, a rabbi based in California, told a vigil a few days after his death about his nephew’s bravery.

“When the attacks started, he realized there was only one woman soldier standing guard,” Rabbi Yonatan Cohen said, according to J., saying that he ran to join the guard and ordered the other soldiers to split up. “He acted like a commander. He acted like an adult.”

Cohen said Yoav fought back against 10 Hamas terrorists: “He protected the other soldier with his body and killed four of the 10 before he was overcome by them.”

“Yoav did Yoav,” he said. “Of course he did,” adding that “he was a rare combination… He was a very quiet and internal person with tremendous resilience.”

His girlfriend, Einat Tzemach, told At magazine that they had been together for two years and that Yoav “was a Zionist type, who wanted to firstly give back to the country.” She said he was quiet and bashful and blossomed in the army when he received a distinction in his officer’s course.

Einat said he was the oldest in his family, “always took care of his siblings, and he really wanted to build his own family. He was a crazy good cook, with a rich imagination. He sang, played, wrote songs, he studied psychology and also physics. That’s how he was — different and special, but also humane and realistic, with incredible emotional intelligence. All his friends saw him as their secret keeper.”

She said that Yoav would “call me his wife, we spoke about getting married and having children. We didn’t have an ego, even if we fought for a moment we would embrace, kiss and move on. We had a lot of conversations about the rest of our lives together, and I struggle to accept that I won’t have that anymore.”

After he was killed, a letter was found on his body written in the final moments of his life, reading: “The best 20 minutes of my life, we crawled up here, I was wounded, there’s a volley of bullets right now, I’m thinking of you and will think all the time, I love you.”

Yoav’s parents, Maya and Alex, appeared on the Kan public broadcaster to speak about their son, the letter, and his final moments.

“My son fought hard to get where he got,” Alex said on the TV network. “He completed his course with the highest honors, and it was very, very important to him to be the best wherever he could.”

“I think that everyone who went out to face this horror knew that they may not come back,” he added. “I think with all the energy and passion and compassion that Yoav and the officers and soldiers had in those 20 minutes… Trying with all their strength to fight to protect us, was for him the fulfillment of everything he’d been raised on, everything he’d learned, everything he’d gathered and absorbed — I think the message to us is that ‘I didn’t die in vain. I fought.'”

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here.

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