Those we have lost

Staff Sgt. Itay Yehuda, 20: Givati soldier wanted to be tattoo artist

Killed fighting against Hamas in northern Gaza on October 31

Staff Sgt. Itay Yehuda (IDF)
Staff Sgt. Itay Yehuda (IDF)

Staff Sgt. Itay Yehuda, 20, a Givati Brigade soldier from Rishon Lezion, was killed fighting in northern Gaza on October 31.

Itay was among 11 soldiers from Givati’s Tzabar Battalion, including Lt. Pedayah Mark, who were killed when the Namer armored personnel carrier they were in was hit by an anti-tank guided missile fired by Hamas, the IDF said.

He was buried on November 1 in Holon. He is survived by his parents, Rinat and Ofer, and his siblings Omer, Adi, Idan and Amit.

His family was given the charred remains of a letter found on his body when he was killed, which he had written five days earlier.

“I want to say thank you for raising me and educating me to be who I am and to where I got,” he wrote. “Who would have thought that I would have to write a goodbye letter. To my parents, I appreciate you so much even though sometimes it didn’t seem that way.”

Itay, who was killed two weeks before his 21st birthday, wrote to “all my friends and the people I knew in my life: Thank you for all the moments I had with you, all the hangouts and the laughter. Thanks to you I laughed endlessly. I love you like crazy. Aside from that, it’s important for me to say that I don’t regret for a moment enlisting in a combat unit — it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life.”

His family said he had big plans after his release from the army to become a tattoo artist, and to set up his own home studio for tattoos — and had already promised his friends that they would be his first clients.

On October 7, Itay was home on sick leave from the army, but insisted on returning to his unit with the start of the Hamas attack, even when his family wanted him to stay home. And while his family was deeply worried about his operations in Gaza, he was not afraid: “This is what I’ve been training for for three years,” he told his mother in their last phone conversation.

Itay’s uncle, Yaron, told Maariv that his nephew was “a talented artist, a prankster, funny, raised everyone’s spirits, a magical child.” Itay “respected his parents, respected everyone — just a wonderful kid. He followed his brother into Givati.”

His mother, Rinat, told a local news site, “Itay entered this world early and left it too soon,” noting that he was born several months premature — on her own birthday — weighing less than 1 kg, “but Itay was a fighter from the first moment.”

“I want people to know that Itay was a boy with smiling eyes, he did only good in this world, he was loved by everyone and loved everyone,” Rinat said. “He was an artist, with talent and good hands, who loved sports and his family.”

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here.

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