Those we have lost

Sgt. Yaron Zohar, 19: Promising soccer player who was ‘never angry’

Killed while battling Hamas next to Kibbutz Erez on October 7

Sgt. Yaron Zohar (IDF)
Sgt. Yaron Zohar (IDF)

Sgt. Yaron Zohar, 19, a Golani Brigade soldier from Kiryat Ata, was killed on October 7 battling the Hamas invasion of southern Israel.

He and his comrades fought back against dozens of terrorists who tried to invade the IDF outpost next to Kibbutz Erez, along the northern border of the Gaza Strip. He managed to take out a number of the gunmen, before he was wounded by shrapnel from a mortar, dying shortly after on the battlefield.

He was buried on October 9 in Kiryat Ata. He is survived by his parents, Lihi and Ami, and his sisters Ofri, 23, and Guy, 13.

He was an active soccer player for most of his youth, including playing six years for the Hapoel Haifa youth team. At the same time, he was a devoted fan of the Maccabi Haifa professional team.

His aunt, Galit, told a sports news site that they would often go together to Maccabi Haifa games, making “a whole ceremony” of the occasion.

“We’d get up with excitement… leave the house early: ‘Listen, I need to get there at least three hours before, to absorb the atmosphere,’ he would say. Just before we’d leave the house, he’d make sure everyone is outfitted in green, most importantly the scarves,” she recalled. “Walking from the parking lot to the stadium… entering the bleachers, with that special moment where you soak up the atmosphere before the start of the game… singing with friends and then the opening whistle.”

His younger sister, Guy, told Channel 14 that she heard from his comrades after his death that he was “a funny kid, that he was always there for them, that he always helped — a kid who was the best, he really was. Everyone who knew him said the same thing.” Guy said they had a “very strong relationship, we were really close, anytime he’d come home on weekends [from the army] we’d spend time together.”

Speaking to Army Radio, Yaron’s mother, Lihi said he was “a wonderful boy, a modest boy, introverted, gentle and pleasant — he never fought, never cursed, he was rarely ever angry.”

From a young age, she said, “he had very high emotional intelligence, and as he grew up it only intensified. He was a boy who was a joy to raise, to grow up with, he didn’t fight with his sisters, didn’t argue.”

She said he began playing soccer at age 7 and was dedicated to the sport for a decade until at age 17 he decided to quit and focus fully on preparing for an army combat role. “He really wanted to be in an elite unit, so he swapped out soccer for other exercises.” Golani was not his dream, she said, but he grew to be happy there, “and they really saw him, even with his quiet [nature] and his introversion, he made his mark.”

“He is so very very missed, he’s a wonderful kid, he was the glue of the family, the glue of his friends, one of the best soldiers,” she said, noting that he received several awards for excellence during the nine months he had been in the army. “That’s what I heard from everyone who came in here [during the shiva mourning period] — that he was one of the best if not the best in his company.”

His father, Ami, told Israel Hayom ahead of Memorial Day, more than six months after Yaron was killed, that he visits his son’s grave every day and speaks to him.

“I talk to him all the time, he’s with me, even if he can’t answer me he’s with me,” said Ami. Despite the pain, he said, he has chosen life and is devoted to his two daughters: “Yaron was very connected to his sisters, when he would come home he would always play with his little sister, he was a child of love.”

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here.

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