The head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, Ofir Libstein, 50, was killed during fighting with Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7.
“Ofir was killed when he went to defend a town during the terrorist attack,” the council said in a statement announcing his death.
A member of the kibbutz’s local security team, he was posthumously recognized as a fallen soldier with the rank of master sergeant in the reserves. His funeral was held on October 18 in Even Yehuda.
He is survived by his wife, Vered, three of their children, Aviv, Idan and Ori, his parents, Esther and Gideon, and his four siblings, Doron, Arnon, Dafna and Rachel.
Shai Hajaji, a friend and the head of the nearby Merhavim Regional Council, said Libstein was “always the first to defend residents of the council.”
“In death, as in life, Ofir was an exemplar of an ethical public figure fighting for his residents, even if it endangered his life,” Hajaji said in comments carried by Channel 12 news.
Libstein, who served in his position for the past five years, built many relationships overseas with those who supported the Gaza border communities.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria — whose city was a sister city with Sha’ar Hanegev — paid tribute to Libstein and recalled the time they spent together.
“His enthusiasm for building connections between his city and neighbors in Gaza was inspiring,” wrote Gloria on X. “Ofir was a friend and the news of his death is absolutely heartbreaking. I offer San Diego’s deepest condolences to his family and the people of the community he loved so much and served so well.
Dan Springer, the CEO of JNF Australia, told the Australian Jewish News that Libstein was “a great friend and a wonderful partner on many projects throughout Sha’ar HaNegev… always smiling, always positive, with a unique and infectious laugh.”
His brother, Doron, told Channel 12 news, “Ofir was a very dominant character, also in the family, he was our anchor. All the holidays, every kiddush on Friday night, it was always at his house.”
Ofir was known for a saying which took on different resonance after October 7, that living in the communities near Gaza is “95% heaven and 5% hell.” Doron said that wasn’t his brother’s only saying, “He had another sentence he would say, which is ‘the light and the good will win.'”
His wife, Vered, who lost her mother, husband, son and nephew on the same day, spearheaded a project to distribute anemones, the flower closely identified with the southern region, to Jewish communities in the south in their memory.
The project, she told Ynet, “symbolizes for me exactly what Ofir believed in, and built his entire life. The deep connection between the values of the kibbutz and the country to world Jewry, through the incredible connection to nature we have here in the northern Negev.”