Those We Have Lost

Staff Sgt. Maru Alem, 20: Ethiopian immigrant was a ‘magical child’

Killed fighting Hamas terrorists near Nir Oz on October 7

Staff Sgt. Maru Alem who was killed near Nir Oz on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
Staff Sgt. Maru Alem who was killed near Nir Oz on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

Staff Sgt. Maru Alem, 20, a Golani Brigade soldier from Ashkelon, was killed while battling Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7.

At 5:30 a.m. on October 7, Alem and three other Golani soldiers, Cpt. Omer Wolf, Staff Sgt. Shalev Dagan, and Itay Zarbib, climbed into a “David” armored vehicle to conduct a routine patrol along the Gaza border fence.

They were the first to encounter the invasion of Hamas terrorists into southern Israel that morning, engaging in battle with a group of them astride motorcycles and pickup trucks. They fought for more than an hour at five different locations, preventing eight terrorists from entering Kibbutz Nirim and succeeded in delaying the invasion by two hours.

Zarbib, the driver of the David and the lone survivor of the four, told Channel 13 that the group later saw a terrorist carrying an RPG launcher and tried to dodge the attack. Dagan and Alem were in the back seat; Alem jumped first and was shot dead by the terrorists, Dagan jumped second and returned fire and was hit and killed by the RPG.

Zarbib and Wolf, seated in the front, exited the vehicle to fight the terrorists; Zarbib was shot and wounded and later rescued, while Wolf was shot and killed.

Alem is survived by his parents, Yigavel and Gevaria, and his five siblings. He was buried on October 12 in Ashkelon.

Alem and his family moved to Israel from Ethiopia in 2012, when he was 11 years old, and they spent two years in an absorption center in Sderot before moving to Ashkelon. Two of his siblings remained in Ethiopia, and his family fought for months to allow one of them, Tamar, to remain in Israel, finally winning the battle in February — with assistance from Joel Dagan, the father of Maru’s fallen comrade Shalev.

At his funeral, a Golani officer recounted, “Maru, you practiced, you excelled, you took part in many operations, charging ahead and taking responsibility. You were quiet, modest, a good friend with a huge heart. You were a brave and strong fighter.”

“You served as a role model for the entire company, in particular the young people who joined it,” he continued, noting that most of his comrades could not attend the funeral as they were continuing the fighting.

Maru’s sister, Rivka, wrote on an Ashkelon memorial site that “Maru was a magical child with a smile that can’t be described. He was generous, considerate, one who made sure to help anyone who needed it. His smile was everything — just seeing it would make you understand what a good person he was, glowing every place he went.”

Rivka wrote that “it’s not possible to describe in words what a person he was… friendly, funny, introverted, pure, there’s nobody who didn’t love him, he never did anything bad to anyone, he had a contagious laugh that nobody will forget.”

Her brother, she said “was a perfect boy, a brother who never left anyone behind, always checked in on his siblings, made sure they were not lacking anything — respecting his parents was his top priority, he never forgot his family…. He loved my mother and he always wanted and wants to see my mother happy.”

His mother, Yigavel, told Kan that “it’s hard because my son died before his time, not from disease or old age… it’s not easy, it’s so hard,” she said. “My beloved Maru, why did Maru have to die?”

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