Those we have lost

Staff Sgt. Adi Baruch, 23: Boyfriend proposed to her at her funeral

Killed October 12 by a rocket in Sderot, the reservist lobbied to be drafted in the war following the Hamas massacre

Adi Baruch wears uniform on her way Sderot, Israel on October 15. (Courtesy)
Adi Baruch wears uniform on her way Sderot, Israel on October 15. (Courtesy)

When the funeral crowd left the grave of Staff Sgt. Adi Baruch, 23, her boyfriend approached it holding a white ring box.

Kneeling on the freshly dug red earth of the cemetery of the town of Barkan in Samaria on October 15, Nevo Yanai produced an engagement ring and proposed to Baruch, a wedding photographer who was killed three days earlier by a rocket that Palestinian terrorists had launched into Sderot.

Yanai had bought the ring weeks earlier and had been waiting for the right moment to propose to his high school sweetheart, a former operations staff sergeant who was serving as a reservist in Sderot. Baruch insisted that her unit commanders draft her following the October 7 onslaught on Israel by Hamas terrorists.

“I just needed to hear myself propose to her,” Yanai told Channel 13 after the funeral. “I looked at her, at her grave, I told her about our life together and how from a very young age, she stole my heart,” he said.

Baruch’s story has resonated with countless Israelis who have been exposed to it because it underscores both the patriotic devotion triggered by the attack and the price it has exacted on Israeli society, which has lost hundreds of young, promising and inspiring people like Baruch.

Not long after her death, 27 Chabad rabbis from the United States who are visiting Israel on a solidarity mission met with Baruch’s parents, Orit and Avraham, in Kiryat Netafim, a religious town near Barkan.

“We saw immediately where Adi of blessed memory got her qualities,” said Ruvi New, a Chabad rabbi of Boca Raton, Florida, referencing Adi Baruch’s parents. “Our mission here is to uplift spirits but we found ourselves being uplifted ourselves by Orit and Avraham, their faith and fortitude,” New, a 56-year-old father of 10, told The Times of Israel.

David Eliezrie, another Chabad rabbi from California, said that Adi Baruch’s story “represents the unity in the People of Israel at this time.”

Orit Baruch told the visiting rabbis about her daughter. Yanai, her grieving would-be fiancé, wanted to leave the ring with Adi’s parents, Orit told the rabbis. But she asked him to keep it, “recover emotionally and find another woman to start a family with,” New said, quoting the bereaved mother.

Adi Baruch sent her mother a picture of herself smiling while wearing her uniform as she headed down to Sderot. She was satisfied that her lobbying with her unit resulted in a draft order conscripting her.

Avi, her father, who was also drafted, had proposed she sit out the fighting. She replied: “You did not raise me to sit it out here,” the parents recalled while meeting with the rabbis.

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here.

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