Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Ygal, killed in an overnight arrest raid in the northern West Bank, was his father’s only son.
“My whole life revolved around this boy. In my darkest dream I never believed I’d have the title ‘bereaved father.’ My most precious thing was taken from me,” Baruch Ben-Ygal, Amit’s father, told reporters on Tuesday.
Ben-Ygal, a member of the elite Golani Brigade reconnaissance company, was struck in the head by a rock thrown at the troops during a raid in the village of Yabed, west of Jenin, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters.
He was killed one month before the end of his service.
Lone children are not usually allowed into combat units, especially dangerous ones, without special permission from their parents.
“He wanted to serve in a combat unit and asked that I sign [my assent] for him,” Baruch told the Ynet news site on Tuesday morning, hours after receiving news that Amit had been killed.
“‘I want to go to a combat unit and have a meaningful service,’ he said. I told him, ‘You’re my only son, I have nothing besides you, not a father, not a mother, you’re the only one I have in this world. I have nothing.’ He said to me, ‘Dad, I’m asking you to sign for me,'” the father said in a choked voice.
“So we drove together to [the military base at] Tel Hashomer, I signed, I hugged him, I said the priestly benediction over him and blessed him, and we laughed and went to eat. Then he told me, ‘I’ll take care of myself.’ He said it maybe 30 times to quiet my conscience,” Baruch recalled.
The 21-year-old from the central Israeli city of Ramat Gan was the first IDF soldier to be killed in action in 2020. He was posthumously promoted from staff sergeant to sergeant first class.
His funeral will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the military cemetery in the central Israeli town of Beer Yaakov, southeast of Tel Aviv.
Serving in a combat unit “was his dream,” said mother Nava Revivo, who has two other children from a second marriage.
“He was my eldest son, his father’s only son. Absolutely unique. He loved me so much and admired me and always showed affection, and always made me think everything was fine with him. He always wanted to be first in line, always to be first,” she told Channel 12.
She said she’d had a premonition that something had happened to her son.
“I woke up at 5:15 in the morning thinking Baruch Dayan Ha’emet [“Blessed is the judge of truth,” a traditional Jewish phrase marking a death] and I didn’t know what was going on. It had to come to me in a dream. Half an hour later they knocked on my door. It was my nightmare, to look through the peephole and see soldiers. Those poor soldiers who had to come tell me about this.”
“We still don’t know anything,” she said. The army’s investigation is still underway — as is the manhunt for the Yabed resident who threw the stone that killed Ben-Ygal.
“Amit was very happy, very sensitive, very much a friend. He always saw the family as his whole world, my love, he always laughed. We gave him a lot of confidence and independence,” recalled his mother.
Ben-Ygal was also mourned Tuesday by his girlfriend, Osher Hanum.
In a Tuesday night video call, he told her he was headed to an operation that night, she said.
“Last night he told me, ‘I love you and I promise to take care of myself,'” Hanum said.
“He had to turn off his phone. I told him I don’t want to hang up, and he said he promises everything will be okay. Then he hung up. In the morning they told me he was dead.”
Amit had an active Instagram account. The last entry, dated Friday, was of him and Osher kissing in a field. “Screw everything, I love you,” he wrote her in a comment.
“He loved his country so much. He told me on Memorial Day that if you must die, then do it for your country. He fought hard to get into Golani. All his shirts are Golani reconnaissance. He was proud of his country and sacrificed himself for his country,” she said.
“He came from a Zionist household. He loved the people of Israel, the land of Israel,” father Baruch told the Kan public broadcaster.
“We don’t have anything else. I am broken, I am broken, I am broken, I am crushed,” he said. “I don’t have words for it.”