Here are the names of the pilots killed:
- Colonel Tzvi Loft, 42, of Hogla
- First Lieutenant Tom Farkash, 23, of Caesarea
And, the names of the soldiers killed in Bint Jbeil:
- First Sergeant Kobi Smilag, 20, of Rehovot
- First Lieutenant Lotan Slavin, 21, of Hetzba
Wreckage of Monday's helicopter crash (Photo: Niv Calderon)
Killed on the way to battle a year before his release
Dozens of senior officers arrived on Monday to comfort the mourning family of Colonel Tzvi Loft, who, until the accident, served in Air Force headquarters. The family home practically couldn't contain the tens of people who came to pay respect.
Rumors were flying after the crash in the afternoon. More and more people came to visit. The pilot's wife, Orna, sitting in the yard, surrounded by friends, had a hard time digesting the bitter news. "Tzvika was a seasoned professional," she told her shocked friends Monday. "We don't understand how such an accident could happen to him in particular."
Loft, who served in the Apache Squadron in Mitzpeh Ramon, was scheduled to be released from his army service in another year. Monday, numerous senior air force officers from Mitzpeh Ramon arrived at the family's house, some of them colonels and brigadier generals. All of them knew him well from the many positions he filled in the corps.
Loft enlisted in the army at the age of 18, and since has been a career officer; over and over again he renewed his service. His friends said of him, "He really loved his army service and contributed a lot to the air force." In the past, he commanded the Apache Squadron.
Loft leaves behind his wife, Orna, and three daughters.
He delayed his visit to Canada because of the war
Tom Farkash, 23, of Caesarea, is second generation in the air force. His father served in the military as a Skyhawk pilot, and today is a captain in El-Al. News of his sons death he received in Toronto, as he had flown there as part of his work. In the coming days, Tom was also supposed to fly to Canada to meet his friends there, but postponed the flight following the war in the north. Now it may be that his friends will come to Israel to say their parting goodbyes.
Tom was born in Canada after his parents moved there when they were young. Eleven years ago, they returned to Israel, settling in Caesarea. In 2001, Tom enlisted in the IDF, passed the pilots course, and served as a combat helicopter pilot.
Only a month ago he celebrated his 23rd birthday. For his birthday, he received an unconventional gift from his family: an ice cream truck to distribute ice cream to him and his friends. Tom spent last Saturday with part of his family and his girlfriend of four years, Reut.
Last week, when two Apache helicopters crashed, the family was anxious for Tom. "They were up all night with worry, but after the incident was investigated and they understood that their son was not in one of the helicopters, they were more at ease and were able to take a deep breath," a relative told Ynet. "Tom didn't get to the pilots' course because his dad was a pilot, but because he was really good."
His uncle, Yaniv Alfiya, said Tom was everybody's favorite. "He is the oldest son in the family, a very successful and handsome child.
Tom leaves behind his parents, Anat and Doron, and two siblings, Amit and Ori.
Evacuation of soldiers in Lebanon (Photo: Reuters)
"It will be okay. The one in the tank will win"
When Beer Sheva's resident officer arrived at Moshav Hetzba to inform the Slavin family that their 21-year-old son, Lotan, was killed in the battle at Bint Jbeil, the soldier's parents weren't home. They took a vacation to drive to Beer Sheva to help their son Omer, who is studying medicine, move to his new apartment. The officer returned to Beer-Sheva, and only there met Lotan's parents.
"We went through some hair-raising hours," said Ossie Nir, a tourism coordinator from the moshav. "Rumors were going around that a soldier from Hetzba was killed. At first there was talk of an Apache pilot. We looked into it and found that everyone was healthy and well. Afterwards, reports arrived from soldiers in the field that there were casualties from the ground forces."
One of Lotan's friends saw him right before he went out to battle. "I told him to stay safe and to take care of himself and he said to me: Of course, the one in the tank will win."
The Salvin family is one of the corner stones of the Arava. The father, Gil, is a manager of development and tourism in the local council, and the mother, Iris, is an artist. "They have four sons who all look alike," said Nir, "a family that is the salt of the earth."
Lotan was born and raised in the Arava. He studied in the Shitim region school. He recently finished officers' course and signed to be a career officer and planned to continue his army service. Chairman of the regional council, Lilach Morgan, said that "Lotan was a child of nature that loved the country."
Lotan leaves behind his parents and three brothers, Omer, Yogev, and Bar,
Killed on the battle field next to the regiment commander
Monday night, when the city's resident officers rang the doorbell of the Smilag family in Rehovot, the mother, Flora, didn't need any explanation. She saw the soldier's approaching the house and understood the worst had happened. Her screams shook all those who heard them and were a testimony to the depth and power of pain of losing her son, First Sergeant Kobi Smilag, 20, in Lebanon.
The officers visited Kobi's parent's first, and from there continued on to Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva in order to locate Kobi's older sister to inform her that her brother fell in battle in Lebanon.
Kobi went into Lebanon in a tank of Artillery Battalion 52. The tank hurried to rescue wounded soldiers from the field when it was hit by and anti-tank missile. Kobi was killed. The regiment commander was moderately wounded.
Kobi leaves behind his parents and his older sister.
Raanan Ben-Zur and Seya Egozi contributed to this article