Wednesday marked the first day of operation Autumn Clouds, the IDF's largest incursion into Gaza since the summer in yet another attempt to stem the daily fire of Qassam rockets into Israel's south.
Israel's sole casualty in Wednesday's clashes is Staff Sgt. Kerell Goldenshin, who was killed before dawn in exchanges of fire near the town of Beit Hanoun, where the operation is concentrated. Golenshin is the third IDF fatality in Gaza since the Kerem Shalom attack in June which Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and two of his comrades killed.
Kerell's father Michael drove him to his base on Sunday after a weekend at home. "I asked him to look out for us and for himself," said Michael, "this is a kid who went through every possible trial the army had to offer and who ended up serving in an elite Oketz unit. He always wanted to be the best."
Goldshin senior had harsh words for the political echelon: "I am so tired for politicians meddling in the army. All these leaders along with Mr. Olmert should have gone home already. I don't think that a person (Olmert), with every due respect to the opinions of his pacifist children, should have control over the people who sacrifice everything. I also don't think that Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, who has never held either a Kalachnikov (AK-47) or M-16 in his life, can decide where and how we should retaliate."
Kerell, an only child, made aliyah with his parents at the age of five and joined the Jerusalem 'Experimental School' a year later. The news of his death was particularly difficult for the teachers and students of the school where students study in the same class from preschool to their senior year. Kerell's classmate Uri Grossman was killed in Lebanon less than three months ago.
Yigal Shapira, a teacher of Kerell's at the Experimental School, recalled speaking to his parents a few years ago when Kerell asked them to sign the release form which would allow him to serve as a combat soldier.
Only children and children from bereaved families are not required to serve in combat units and may only do so if they receive permission from their parents. "I spoke to them about it," said Shapira, "they signed because he was very adamant about being a combat soldier, it was extremely important to him."
Teachers and classmates described Golenshin as "the best of the best". "He was admired, social, so full of character, a man of ideals and values," said Shapira, "he didn't smoke or drink even when almost everyone around him was doing those things."
In Golenshin's senior yearbook classmates wrote: 'After enlisting in the army and taking over the job of Chief of Staff, Kerell will cancel out all the other commando units and form a single elite commando unit – the Kerell Commando.'