MEMBERS of the Australian Jewish community are encouraged to come together virtually tonight (Sunday, May 17) to remember fallen IDF soldier Amit Ben-Ygal.
Amit, 21, was killed one month before the end of his service during a raid on a Palestinian village in the West Bank earlier this week, when he was struck in the head with a large rock.
Remembered as “a hero” and a much-loved son, he was posthumously promoted from staff sergeant to sergeant first class, and was tragically the first IDF soldier to be killed in action in 2020.
The Ben-Ygal family has a deep connection to the Australian Jewish community.
Nearly 25 years ago, Amit’s father Baruch Ben-Ygal and Sydney’s Tom Goldman forged a relationship that became stronger as the years passed.
Baruch Ben-Ygal had saved an Australian athlete from drowning at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel when the bridge across the Yarkon River collapsed as the Australian team headed to the opening ceremony.
The disaster killed four and injured more than 60 Australian athletes and other team delegates.
“Baruch has been an honorary member of the Australian team in every Maccabiah since 1997,” Goldman, then the president of Maccabi Australia and now the vice-president of Maccabi World Union, said.
“In 2013, Amit helped out with the juniors also in an unofficial capacity. I am devastated.”
Goldman had flown to Israel from Sydney eight years ago to attend Amit’s bar mitzvah.
Baruch sent an iPhone message to Goldman with a photo of the two men and Amit, who would call Goldman his “grandfather”. The text message read, “My life is finished. I love you Tommy.”
When an Israeli army officer visited Baruch’s home to tell him of his son’s death, Baruch asked him to contact Amit’s “grandfather” in Sydney.
Hundreds of people attended Amit’s funeral on Tuesday evening.
Eulogising his son, Baruch said, “Amit isn’t an only child. He has millions of other siblings who are sad, who admire [him] and who know our lives in the Land of Israel depend on the courage of Amit and his friends.
“I don’t have anything else. I don’t have any other children. My only son,” he added.
“I’m not a father now. I’m nothing. What a price I have paid.”
Israel’s Defence Minister Naftali Bennett, who spoke at the funeral, said, “Golani soldiers, you’ll go back to fighting and find the terrorist and wicked [person] who did this and together we’ll defeat our enemies.”
An online memorial service for Amit Ben-Ygal will be held on Sunday, May 17 at 6pm AEST. Ma’ariv and prayers will be led by Rabbi Levi Wolff and eulogies by Baruch Ben-Ygal, Tom Goldman and Maccabi Australia chairman Barry Smorgon.
To join, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86956929745.