Those we have lost

Staff Sgt. Yonadav Levenstein, 23: Fell 2 months after his wedding

Slain while fighting against Hamas in northern Gaza on November 3

Staff Sgt. Yonadav Raz Levenstein (Courtesy)
Staff Sgt. Yonadav Raz Levenstein (Courtesy)

Staff Sgt. Yonadav Raz Levenstein, 23, a soldier in the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, was killed while fighting Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip on November 3.

He grew up in Ma’ale Adumim, the child of Canadian immigrants, and lived in Jerusalem. He was killed just two months after his wedding to Hadar.

Yonadav was buried on November 5 on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. He is survived by his wife, Hadar, his mother Leora and and his five older siblings, Merav, Elnatan, Atara, Tzahala and Avital. He was predeceased by his father, Michael.

Yonadav’s tall stature and striking red beard led many of his friends and comrades to refer to him as “the viking.” He met his wife, Hadar, while the two were working at the City of David archeological digs before he enlisted in the army — something he had to fight for after getting into trouble in his high school years.

Enlisting at age 21, Yonadav fought his way to the Givati Brigade, and on October 7 his unit was called to the front lines, where they battled against Hamas in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Several weeks later, he was among the first troops to enter Gaza with the start of the ground invasion.

On October 24, Yonadav sent a message to his newlywed wife via the Walla news site, taking the microphone while stationed on a base in the south and saying simply: “Hi, I’m Yonadav Levenstein from Jerusalem, I want to say hi to my wife, Hadar — I love you very much.”

Family and friends of Staff Sgt. Yonadav Raz Levenstein, an IDF soldier killed in Gaza, mourn at his funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on November 5, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yonadav was remembered as having a wide range of hobbies, including music — playing the piano, guitar and harmonica — being talented at basketball, a keen student of history and having a love of hiking and travel. When they were first dating, Hadar and Yonadav hiked the Israel Trail together, and had plans for a global honeymoon once he was released from the army.

At his funeral, his mother, Leora, noted that despite being the youngest of six, “you grew up to be an independent boy, teen and man, smart, opinionated, strong and hardworking — but always with the warmest and sweetest smile in the world and the biggest heart.”

Three years earlier, she said, when Yonadav’s father was “on his deathbed, he made sure to say how proud he was of you for the path you set for yourself. He was happy with your work in the City of David excavations, where you combined your impressive physical strength with your love for Jewish history and your deep understanding and knowledge in all areas connected to the heritage of the Jewish people.”

And there, she noted, was where he met Hadar, “and what a wise and mature choice you made when you decided she would be your partner for life… such a beautiful couple, connected by a unique covenant of love, complementing each other in divine harmony.”

Speaking to the Makor Rishon newspaper, Hadar described her husband as a “sort of huge viking with the soul of a child.”

“He was a fascinating conversationalist, so interesting and measured,” she recalled of their early days working together at the City of David. “Yonadav truly loved the Land of Israel and its history, and knew so much… he was an autodidact, he taught himself to play the piano, the guitar, the harmonica, he was a super talented musician. When we would visit his mother, he would hug her and immediately sit down to play songs with me next to him — I miss that.”

Enlisting at a slightly older age, she said, made him a big brother and leader figure to many of his comrades, who came to pay their condolences during the shiva.

“Like in life, also in the army, for all the complicated tasks he was the first,” she said. “They always knew they had someone to rely on, and knew that there was someone here who came to work.”

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