Hundreds attend Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi's funeral
Family, friends and fellow IDF soldiers pay their final respects to the 20-year-old Givati troop, who was killed on Friday on the Gaza border by a Hamas sniper; 'We are not parting here. You will be with us forever,' says father in his eulogy, while Aviv's siblings remember the 'considerate young man, a hero to us all.’
Friends, family and fellow soldiers made their way to the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva where the 20-year-old Givati soldier was buried.
“It is not easy to eulogize my son. It’s not natural," said his father, Yaakov. “You were a ray of shining and smiling sun for us. We loved seeing every moment of you becoming the man that we knew. You were the salt of the earth and paid the ultimate price for your outstanding service.
“You never avoided any mission, however large or small. You guarded and protected your friends. We are not parting here. You will be with us forever,” the father said in the presence of hundreds of soldiers donning the purple Givati beret.
Levi’s sister, Noy, also spoke at the funeral. “My big brother. I don’t understand how, out of all the people, God chose to take you. It wasn’t your time to go from us. You were a wonderful brother, an admirable character, a considerate young man and a beautiful, handsome and special man. You are a hero to all of us for life,” said 15-year-old Noy who, along with one of her other brothers, 4-year-old Dan, received the terrible news of Aviv’s death while on vacation in Italy.
Aviv’s other sibling Oriyan, 19, who also serves in the IDF, bid his final farewell to his older brother. “You were the man of the house. I miss your smile, your laugh and the vein that popped out in any situation that annoyed you,” said Oriyan, mustering a humorous memory in the midst of grief.
“I promise that I will protect the family for you as you would have wanted,” he added.
Prior to the funeral, Levi's uncle, Noam eulogized his nephew, who was three months away from being discharged from the army.
“He was someone who all our cousins and brothers admired … He was always a very serious and very modest guy, and he did everything in a quiet and thorough way,” Boam later said in an interview with Ynet.
A team of military experts has been appointed to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of Staff Sgt. Levi.
An initial investigation revealed that the terrorist who carried out the long range shot was able to do so amid violent riots that had developed along the Israeli border in the Khan Yunis area.
Levi was a commander of an IDF force that was in charge of preventing dozens of Gazan protesters from crossing the border fence.
According to the initial investigation, Levi wore the required armor—a helmet and a flak jacket with ceramic plates. It appears that the bullet did not penetrate the flak jacket but rather struck the soldier in the upper chest area.
The bullet may have penetrated the exposed area on the body between Levi’s neck and the ceramic plate. Among other things, the bullet’s trajectory will be examined before the penetration and the distance between the shooting point and the soldier—the two elements that led to the fatal result.
"Aviv was always very responsible. He always made sure he was protected … This flak jacket simply wasn’t enough. According to the battalion commander, the jacket will be send for examination … Not that it will help us, but they claim that the bullet was too big for the jacket to stop it,” explained his uncle.
“When he was young he wanted to learn Capoeira so he gave it his all. Then he wanted to be a surfer and he became one of the best. When he decided to serve in combat, he only wanted to be in the Givati brigade and according to what we’ve heard, he had excelled at that as well,” Noam continued.
“We met the battalion commander last night and he said that he was supposed to stay at the base but he demanded to go out there and help … He left the base around 5pm and then the bloody sniper came and his bullet is what killed him,” the uncle continued.
Oriyan, who serves in the Golani Brigade, received a phone call from his commander on Friday and asked him to come home, Noam explained.
"Once he was home, the IDF representatives were waiting for him there. The parents in Italy had a military attache wait for them at the hotel before informing them of the incident,” he added.
In the meantime, many of Levi’s former classmates from his school in Petah Tikva attended a service along with teachers and a mayor.
"Everyone was pretty quiet … and lit candles, the intensity of the shock and the grief was felt in the silence," said one of the attendees.