As death toll from Hamas onslaught continues to climb, Israel begins to bury its dead

As the country still reels from the shocking and devastating Hamas attack on Saturday, Israel has slowly begun to bury its dead in funerals across the country, even as the death toll continues to tick upward, passing 900 on Monday.

The following is an incomplete account of the funeral ceremonies held so far. Many bodies have yet to be cleared for burial by authorities, and some families have sought to keep the proceedings private.

On Sunday, 42-year-old Col. Jonathan Steinberg, the commander of the Nahal Brigade who was killed clashing with Hamas terrorists in Kerem Shalom a day earlier, was laid to rest in Jerusalem. Steinberg was en route to the site of clashes being managed by his subordinates when he encountered a terrorist who killed him. He is one of the most senior Israeli officers to have been killed in combat in recent memory.

“My dear Yoni, our son, a devoted husband, beloved father, fell on his way to fulfill his task,” eulogized Steinberg’s father, Dani, at the Mount Herzl military cemetery. “Let us carry on the legacy he left us, his family, his soldiers. That way perhaps we can overcome this terrible blow.”

On Monday, Naomi Bicher, 19, who was killed at the music festival near Kibbutz Re’im on Saturday, was buried in Ashdod. “You had a huge and pure heart. You were full of energy and joy — like nothing I ever saw before,” her friend eulogized on social media. “A happy girl, a funny girl, a positive girl — a good friend.”

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On Sunday, Cpl. Dvir Lisha, 21, a Golani soldier from Nitzan who was born in the Neve Dekalim settlement of Gush Katif before the Gaza disengagement, was buried at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. “When you were 3 [years old], we were uprooted from Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif,” his mother, Nava, recalled at his funeral. “It is not a coincidence that you fell so close to there. From the pains of this war, we will be reborn anew as a nation.”

Family and friends attend the funeral of Cpl. Dvir Lisha at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, October 8, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton /Flash90)

In Ofakim on Sunday, Binyamin Rachamim, 52, a resident of Ofakim, who was killed by terrorists as he walked to synagogue on Shabbat, was laid to rest.

Israel Police Sgt. Maj. Vitaly Karisik, 38, from Ashkelon, who was killed clashing with Hamas terrorists near Gaza, was laid to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday. “Even when things were hard, you never lost your optimism,” his sister, Ora, recalled through tears. “You were such a source of pride to your children. You said not once and not twice that you were willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of the country, and you did.”

Mourners attend the funeral of Israel Police officer Vitaly Karisik at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, October 8, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton /Flash90)

Shimi Hayat, 29, from Ashkelon, was laid to rest in the city on Sunday after he was gunned down by Hamas terrorists a day earlier. “How will we continue without you? How do we get up in the morning?” his sister wrote on social media. “How can we go on? How can we fall asleep? My heart is shattered.”

Lt. Or Moses, 22, from Ashdod, a commander in the Home Front Command, was buried Sunday evening in her hometown, after she was killed while serving on the Zikim base just north of Gaza, which was overrun by Hamas terrorists. “She had so many plans. She dreamed of being an IDF commander and then getting out of the army and traveling the world — she was such a source of pride,” her mother, Yochi, said.

Mourners attend the funeral of Col. Jonathan Steinberg, the commander of the Nahal Brigade, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on October 8, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Tzur Saidi, who was killed while attending the music festival near Gaza on Saturday, was laid to rest a day later in the Gderot ceremony. “Tzur was planning on proposing to his girlfriend Inbar in a month on a trip to Australia they had planned,” his sister, Maya, told Army Radio. “He wanted to follow in our father’s footsteps and become a farmer. At the party in Re’im, he was taking care of his friends who were wounded until the last minute. He could have fled, but he stayed to take care of them.”

Pvt. Neria Aharon Nagiri, 18, a Home Front Command soldier, from Talmon, was buried Monday in the Dolev cemetery in the West Bank, after he was killed on Saturday battling Hamas terrorists, just two months after his enlistment. “You told me recently that you felt good, whole, that you were in the right place,” his father Rabbi Rafael Nagiri said at his funeral. “And that’s how you went.”

A man mourns during the funeral of Col. Roi Levy at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on October 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

On Monday, Col. Roi Levy, 44, the head of the IDF Multidimensional Unit, was buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem after he was killed as his forces battled Hamas terrorists in the southern community of Re’im. He was seriously wounded during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, but after a long rehabilitation returned to combat service.

“You were supposed to watch us get married and walk us to the huppah,” his three daughters, Tzuria, Zohar and Avigayil, said at his funeral. “We’re not asking for much — just one more conversation, one more hug… you were our hero.”

His close friend, renowned singer Idan Raichel, spoke at the funeral as well: “He wanted to live, but he died as a fighter.”

Emanuel Fabian and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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