Those we have lost

Sgt. Yotam Hillel, 19: Aspiring DJ who ‘had the biggest heart’

Killed battling Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 9

Sgt. Yotam Hillel (IDF)
Sgt. Yotam Hillel (IDF)

Sgt. Yotam Hillel, 19, a Nahal Brigade soldier from Bareket, was killed on October 9 in Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Yotam, who had enlisted less than a year earlier, was called to the front line with Gaza on the day of the Hamas invasion. Two days later, he was slain by terrorists who were still hiding out inside a home in the hard-hit kibbutz just next to the border.

He is survived by his parents, Dorit and Eldad, and his older siblings Dana, Uriya, Ravit and Adir. He was buried on October 12 in Bareket.

His commander Lt. Nevo Tenenbaum told Kan news that he was always right next to Yotam “during drills, preparations, improving our equipment — he was my guy for everything… He was funny, mischievous, he was never on time. And I really loved him.”

His comrade Sgt. Eran Tzur described Yotam as “a crazy fighter, brave, goal-oriented. He is very much missed by us, but his family gives us strength to keep going.”

A post online from the Orev Nahal Foundation noted that Yotam played soccer in high school and as a child “who always dreamed and aimed high he set himself a goal to play [the sport] in the United States.” He also loved music “and wanted to be a successful DJ and dedicated much of his time to improving his skills.”

His older brother Adir said, “Yotam was the star of the house, who always looked out for his family and friends. Yotam was a happy and energetic child, and since he was a social leader he was always surrounded by many friends.”

Yotam’s older sister, Dana Levi, wrote on Facebook that her heart “refuses to believe! My hero brother. You are missed so much,” she added, sharing photos of him as a toddler when she enlisted into her own IDF service more than 15 years earlier.

His girlfriend Shani Efrati wrote online that “Yotam really loved the army and was so looking forward to his enlistment. He enlisted in Nahal and fought to get to [the elite commando unit] Sayeret Nahal, and Yotam like Yotam never gave up on his dreams and fought until the end.”

Shani said he planned to stay on past his mandatory service and pursue a military career. “Yotam was the smallest kid in his friend group but he had the biggest heart. He always made sure to make everyone laugh, to help everyone with his huge heart and his wide smile.”

“I was privileged to be his first and his last girlfriend,” she wrote. “My life with the person I dreamed I would have will never be.”

In February, his parents showed up to what should have been a ceremony during which Yotam finally received his Nahal Brigade pin at the end of months of training.

“He was so looking forward to this pin,” his mother told Kan. “In the end, we’re the ones who got the pin instead of him receiving it.”

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