Those we have lost

Staff Sgt. Gali Shakotai, 21: Desert child with ‘endless curiosity’

Killed on October 7 while battling Hamas at the Sufa outpost

Staff Sgt. Gali Roy Shakotai (IDF)
Staff Sgt. Gali Roy Shakotai (IDF)

Staff Sgt. Gali Roy Shakotai, 21, a Nahal soldier from Tzofar in the south, was killed on October 7 while battling Hamas at the Sufa IDF outpost near Gaza.

His uncle, Moti Shakotai, told Army Radio that Gali had completed a shift on guard duty at 4 a.m. and had just fallen asleep when the attack began: “He barely had time to put on his uniform, but he put on his helmet and vest and shoes and went out to battle.” Moti said Gali helped to rescue some of his comrades who had been wounded and brought them to a hidden storage area before returning to the front lines, where he was killed.

He was buried on October 12 in the cemetery in Tzofar, a small town in the south along the border with Jordan. He is survived by his parents, Osher and Reuven (Rubi), and his younger siblings, Noam, Shiraz and Talia.

Before enlisting in the army, Gali spent a year doing national service, working with troubled youth who had difficulty in traditional frameworks. His family said he loved growing up in the desert, exploring the area via ATV and familiarizing himself with the land, and when he joined the army he fought to be placed in a combat unit.

His close childhood friend, Staff Sgt. Roy Elias, was killed fighting in south Gaza on December 23, and buried next to Gali.

Elias’s sister, Hadar, told Ynet that when her brother heard about Gali’s death on October 7, “The first thing Roy said to me was, ‘What will I do without Gali?’ He wrote me on Whatsapp: ‘I can’t do it anymore, I see him everywhere I go.’ He was really shattered by it, he didn’t stop visiting his grave.”

Gali’s aunt, Isabel Shakotai, wrote on Facebook a tribute to “our Gali, with your big, kind smiling eyes, which were like a window into your huge heart, which was full of good, only good. You left us a hole in our hearts, our hero, beloved boy. But don’t worry, we will fill that hole, with all the beautiful memories you left us, which nobody can take from us.”

A eulogy read at his funeral on behalf of the community of Tzofar described him as “a young man of love. A boy and a teen with bright eyes who managed to instill confidence and pure joy of life in every child and adult he encountered. Until his last day, Gali chose to do and to act on behalf of others. He had the ability to make people happy, to make them laugh, and to extend a sensitive and warm hand to every friend who needed him.”

Gali, the eulogy read, was “a child of the desert who loved the desert that his yard overlooked. At every opportunity and at every gathering with friends he would choose to go outside, sometimes on his ATV which would make noise in the desert and sometimes with friends, and they would load up with wine and their coffee maker and sit and love — they loved this life with the endless spaces where they grew up.”

Gali’s cousin, Aviv, wrote on Facebook about “Gali of the Arava and of nature, who loved animals and had encyclopedic knowledge, Gali who loved to fool around, who tested every boundary, who created from nothing — no matter where I look in Rubi and Osher’s yard I see something that Gali made or found and fixed up.”

Aviv wrote, “I would ask all the time for him to take me around on the ATV and introduce me to cool and secret places in the Arava, and Gali, who was dead tired, who had just come back from the army or from national service — and who has the strength to entertain a cousin asking for a favor? But you would say yes, because that was the size of your heart. You made everyone feel special and important to you.”

As the memorials and tributes poured in, Aviv wrote, “I thought to myself how very alive you were, how can it be that a person like this died just like that? You empowered this world with your emotion and your energy, your endless curiosity which gave you a sum of experiences that would normally take a lifetime — at least that’s what I want to tell myself.”

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