On Thursday, at 12:23 p.m., Yael Bassel received a text message from her brother Yehuda (Udi), which read "We are still in al-Atara. Everything is okay." An hour later, First Sergeant Yehuda Bassel was killed by a Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip.
Yehuda's mother Shoshanna felt Thursday morning that something was wrong. On her way to work she had a difficult time listening to the news, due to fears for the fate of her son who took part in an Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza. A few hours later she was told her son was killed.
Yehuda Bassel during military operation (Photo: Tzafrir Abayov)
Relatives, friends, and neighbors arrived at the Bassel family home in Moshav Yinon. The family remained at home, and the cries of Yehuda's mother were easily heard outside.
Yehuda, the youngest of six brothers, was supposed to celebrate his 21st birthday next month, and be released from the army in a year.
Zachariah, Yehuda's father, told Ynet: "I don't have words to describe this child."
"Can you explain to me why these guys have to be placed in so much danger? We have an Air Force. Why do they have be endangered if these barbarians are sending Qassams to Ashkelon? What is the aim of these Qassams? To kill children and women and innocent civilians. We must return in kind through the Air Force," he added.
Bassel family house (Photo: Tzafrir Abayov)
"I want everyone to know that he was modest, but was a man. It suited him to be in Golani. He was a hero. He had lots of certificates of excellence," she said.
The mother Shoshanna saw her youngest son for the last time on Tuesday. She woke up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare the schnitzels he liked so much. The mother drove to the southern base, where the soldiers were waiting before the operation.
"She waited for him outside with all the baskets because she didn't want to wake him. At 11:30 a.m. I called him and heard that he woke up, so I asked him why he was sleeping, mother is waiting for him at the battalion police's post. He was so shocked and immediately ran downstairs. It was the last time they met," Yehuda's sister Yael recounted.
Brother Raz referred to Yehuda as "king of the world."
"Every time he would call me, I would see the words 'king of the world' on my phone," he said.
'Wanted to give to State'
Itamar Zandani, Yehuda's childhood friend, said: "He was a very good person. He had a lot of happiness in him. He took advantage of life in the short time he would come home. I am sure he didn’t have any bad intentions toward those Arabs there in the territories. He always told me about his unit's activity at the checkpoints."
When Yehuda was drafted, he knew he would serve at the Golani Brigade.
"He always did more than he was required, he had aspirations, he wanted to give to the State. Yehuda enjoyed every moment and wanted to become an officer. Also at home he would do everything – soccer, motorcycles, ATVs. Two weeks ago we went on a trip to Tiberias. It's the last great experience I am left with from him," Yehuda's friend recounted.
Yehuda graduated from the regional high school at the Be'er Tuvia Regional Council. In his school yearbook he was asked were he would be after the army, and he answered with confidence "surely not in Israel."
In the past weekend, Yehuda went on a trip to Eilat with his friends, and immediately afterwards returned to his unit stationed near the Gaza Strip border fence.
Yehuda's good friends found it hard to believe that he was killed in an IDF operation. Eran Ogen, another friend of Yehuda, spoke about his good friend.
"He was wearing military trousers and a shirt, leaning on his house's railing and smiling, as if life was beautiful, as if everything was good. I was on the way to the base and he had just returned. He shouted at me 'the officer,' so we spoke a bit and he told me 'I don’t see you anymore,' so I told him 'yes, I'm in a hurry. There is work to do,'" Yehuda's friend said.
Clodine Zandani, a neighbor, said that Yehuda was the most successful.
"They would always say that this is the most successful son. A quiet son, a good son. My son, who also went to Golani after him, spoke about him all the time," she said.
The neighbor also spoke about the mother's way to work Tuesday morning.
"I'm in total shock, as if she had a feeling. Today when I met the neighbor who took her, it just made me shiver when he said that she felt it," she recounted.
Dror Shor, head of the Be'er Tuvia Regional Council, said with pain: "The Be'er Tuvia family take part in the heavy grief of the family and hugs them with love. We will lend a hand and help them with everything we can."
Yehuda's funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Kfar Warburg. Yehuda left behind his parents, Shoshanna and Zachariah, and five siblings: Yigal, Raz, Yossi, Yael and Bat Oren.
Tova Dadon contributed to the report