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Oct. 7 Heroes: Partial List of Independence Day Honorees Released

Honorees have been chosen to light torches in Israel’s Independence Day ceremony | The honorees, chosen from 6,100 nominees, represent the diverse aspects of heroism that have characterized Israeli society since Oct. 7

מצעד הדגלנים בטקס המשואות (צילום: יונתן זינדל, פלאש 90)
The flag bearers’ parade at a previous Independence Day ceremony. (Archive photo: Jonathan Zindel/Flash 90)
By Davar

A partial list of the individuals to be honored at the Independence Day torch lighting ceremony was announced last week. The honorees include individuals who fought, rescued, and tended to the wounded during the Oct. 7 attacks

According to the announcement, the honorees will be presented in groups. According to Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who is responsible for national ceremonies, “the task of selecting honorees from thousands of recommendations was nearly impossible.” Over 6,100 nominations were submitted for torch lighters.

Representing Israel’s security forces: the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad, and Israel Police

This year, in the thick of the Oct. 7 tragedy and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the government accepted the recommendation of Transportation Minister Miri Regev to amend the regulations for selecting torch lighters, allowing multiple nominees to light a torch together, symbolizing the diverse facets of Israeli heroism.

Amid the gunfire on Oct. 7, the courage and dedication of security personnel stood out as they fought tirelessly, despite the surprise and fog of war, to thwart incursions and save lives. They continued their efforts day and night, within and beyond Israel’s borders, on land, at sea, and in the air.

Regev endorsed recommendations for Captain Shavit Ben Moshe from the IDF, Commissioner Amir Cohen from the Israel Police, an unnamed Shin Bet fighter, and a Mossad intelligence officer. All four will jointly light one of the 12 Independence Day torches on Mount Herzl.

IDF honoree Captain Shavit Ben Moshe, commanding officer of the Paratroopers Brigade, rushed out from his home in Ma’alot-Tarshiha to join the 35th Division. Throughout the day, he fought in Kibbutz Re’im and later in Kibbutz Holit. There, on the battlefield, he received the bitter news that his brother, Ariel Ben Moshe, commander of a company in the Paratroopers Reconnaissance Battalion, was killed in action while clearing houses of terrorists.

After a conversation with his mother, Shavit, where she expressed her support, Ben Moshe decided to continue fighting until he could attend his brother’s funeral. He returned to battle in Holit, was wounded in combat, and underwent medical treatment. After surgery and a brief recovery, he returned to combat and commanded the 890th Battalion during and after the ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip.

Israel Police honoree Amir Cohen, head of the Southern District, was among the first to comprehend the scale and depth of the attack on Israel’s border. He called the code for mobilizing police and military forces in the event of infiltrations and multi-site incidents.

Thanks to his swift command, police and Border Police forces established a containment line, blocking major arteries, and apprehended terrorist cells already en route to additional cities within Israel’s territory. Cohen prevented Oct. 7 from turning into an even greater disaster.

In his hometown of Sderot, Cohen led the fight in the besieged police station armed only with his personal firearm. Despite sustaining injuries to his back and eye during an hour and a half of combat, he refused to retreat and continued fighting until he decided to bring down the station’s walls on the terrorists, ending the battle.

The unnamed Shin Bet representative served as the head of the organization’s operations directorate. He nurtured generations of fighters and devised innovative operational methods. Even after retiring, he continued to participate in operational activities against enemies.

On Oct. 7, the Shin Bet representative led a team of fighters as the commander of the elite undercover Tequila unit. He engaged in close combat, eliminated dozens of terrorists, and rescued dozens of families from Kibbutz Kfar Aza while it was under fire. The unit lost one of its fighters, and another was seriously injured, but the team continued to fight until the area was cleared.

The unnamed Mossad agent to be honored came to Israel from Iran in her youth when doing so was illegal. She began her career in the Mossad as an expert in recruiting targets in destination countries, particularly in Iran. For several years, she has served as an outstanding collection officer in the operational field.

During her operational years, the agent initiated and led numerous recruitment operations regarding the Iranian issue, with wisdom, a quest for contact, and personal and operational courage, all while maintaining a deep understanding of human nature.

Some of the agents she recruited participated in strategic operations of the Mossad, including operations related to activities against Iran following the terror attack on Oct. 7.

Representing the Rescue Forces: Magen David Adom (MDA), United Hatzalah, Firefighting and Rescue Services, and ZAKA

Volunteers from the state and civilian rescue forces saved and treated thousands of wounded individuals under fire. The public selection committee for choosing torch lighters received dozens of recommendations for members of the rescue forces who performed exceptionally on Oct. 7.

Chosen to jointly light a torch representing the rescue forces are MDA paramedic Oshrit Haddad, United Hatzalah volunteer Dr. Tamar Shlezinger, ZAKA volunteer Norit Eran Cohen, and firefighting station commander Yoel Demri.

Oshrit Haddad is a paramedic at the MDA station in Ashdod. When the attack on the Gaza envelope communities broke out, she swiftly left her home for the station and took command of the intensive care mobile unit. Together with other paramedics, she ventured into the combat zone, setting up a field hospital by the roadside, not far from the massacre site, while battles with terrorists were still raging in the area. Haddad and her colleagues saved the lives of dozens of wounded.

Dr. Tamar Shlezinger, a resident of Rosh Pinah, represents United Hatzalah, the volunteer-based emergency response organization. Dr. Shlezinger received the heart-wrenching call from Michael and Amelia Idan at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, whose parents had been murdered by terrorists and younger sister taken hostage. For 12 long hours, she maintained a calm demeanor, comforted and encouraged the hiding children, and stayed with them on the phone until rescue arrived.

Norit Eran Cohen, from Modi’in, is a volunteer with ZAKA, the volunteer search and rescue organization that focuses on recovering dead bodies so that they can be buried according to Jewish law. Immediately after the battles in the Western Negev communities subsided, Cohen, together with her fellow volunteers from various ZAKA branches, embarked on a mission to locate and identify the victims’ bodies in communities, roads, and open areas. For many days, they traversed among the burnt houses and thousands of burnt cars, searching for any remains of the massacre victims and giving them a final respect by bringing them to burial in Israel.

Firefighter Yoel Demri is the commander of the firefighting station in Netivot. In his 32 years in the firefighting service, he participated in hundreds of firefighting and rescue operations, saving many lives. On the morning of Oct. 7, Demri was on vacation. When he realized the severity of the situation, he rushed to the Netivot station with his operational equipment.

From there, he was dispatched with a fire department operational vehicle to assist the firefighters who were trying to regain control of the police station. At the station, he took command of the forces, entering the station’s hall, which was partially destroyed by rockets and the terrorist attack.

He ordered firefighters to search for survivors and immediately began medical and firefighting rescue operations. Despite the ongoing rocket fire and sporadic gunfire, Demri and his firefighters worked to extinguish the fires and rescue the wounded.

Rescue Heroes

In the tough days of combat, amid confusion, fear, and lack of resources, countless stories of bravery emerged from citizens across the country, from the Western Negev and beyond, who risked their lives to save others. Hundreds of rescue stories reached the advisory committee, from which a few were selected to represent the many.

Chosen to embody the bravery of the rescuers are Rabbi Shachar Butzchak from Ofakim, Yussef Alziadna from Rahat, and Rami Davidian from Moshav Patish.

Rabbi Shachar Butzchak is a community rabbi in Ofakim. On the morning of Simchat Torah, Rabbi Butzchak woke up along with other southern residents to the incessant sounds of sirens and relentless shelling. Understanding the extraordinary nature of the event, Rabbi Butzchak picked up the phone, which had been turned off during the holiday and Sabbath, and through the security preparedness group of Moshav Mivtahim, of which he was a member, he understood the extent of the infiltration and the magnitude of the danger.

Without hesitation, Rabbi Butzchak took his personal weapon and swiftly went out to assist his comrades. On the way, he met a soldier on leave, the late Nahorai Said, and a security guard from the Shin Bet. At that moment, terrorist cells had already infiltrated Ofakim, and the three encountered one of them.

In the firefight that ensued, Said was killed, and Rabbi Butzchak was injured in the leg. Despite his injury, and while continuing to fight, Rabbi Butzchak maintained his composure, updating his community members in Ofakim, the security officer, and his family by phone, and even organized his own evacuation to the hospital.

Yussef Alziadna, a resident of the Bedouin town of Rahat, is a minibus driver. On the morning of Oct. 7, he was scheduled to pick up six young people from the rave at Kibbutz Re’im. During the trip, he realized the area was under attack but continued straight into the battlefield out of a deep commitment to people he didn’t even know.

With exceptional courage, despite continuous gunfire directed at him, he decided to rescue as many people as possible during the trip. Alziadna managed to pick up 30 survivors from the massacre and save their lives. In the events, Alziadna lost a  close family member, who was killed. Four of his family members were abducted to Gaza.

Rami Davidian from Moshav Patish received a phone call early one Saturday morning from a friend asking him to help rescue a boy from the party. Without hesitation, Davidian got into his car. During the journey, he was exposed to the realities of the brutal attack and made a fateful decision—to rescue as many survivors from the party as possible.

Throughout the entire day, Davidian rescued survivors from every possible location—from valleys, orchards, and the party compound, while he also ensured the safety of more family members and friends. His excellent knowledge of agricultural paths helped him reach the focal points of the massacre without getting harmed.

During one of the rescues, Davidian, with great courage and exceptional composure, managed to save a girl from the hands of six terrorists while pretending to be an Arab. In the rescue operations he led, he saved the lives of over 700 people who owed him their lives.

Heroes of Local Preparedness Units

On the morning of October 7th, members of the local preparedness units in the Western Negev towns and kibbutzim stood for hours facing thousands of armed terrorists. Many members of the preparedness units fell and were injured in the fierce battles, where they fought with courage and unity.

Numerous recommendations reached the public committee urging recognition of the efforts of the preparedness units. Chosen to represent them are Inbal Rabin-Liberman from Kibbutz Nir Am, Barak Shalom from Kibbutz Alumim, Avichai Elia from Havat Yair, and Tal Leavitt from Metula, as representatives of preparedness units across the country.

Inbal Rabin-Liberman, only 26, is the security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am. On the morning of October 7th, amid rocket attacks on the Western Negev towns and kibbutzim, Liberman detected unusual noises near the kibbutz and decided to act swiftly. She left the kibbutz’s iron gate closed, stationed armed members on the kibbutz’s fence, and deployed members of the preparedness unit in ambushes against a possible infiltration. Through her actions, Lieberman saved the lives of her kibbutz members.

Barak Shalom, the commander of the preparedness unit of Kibbutz Alumim, stood on Oct. 7 at the head of a reduced preparedness unit of 12 volunteers. Despite numerical inferiority and a shortage of weapons, Shalom and his comrades, along with three additional soldiers who joined the fight, managed to organize and position themselves as a barrier between Hamas terrorists and the first homes in Alumim. In their fight, they prevented the terrorists from reaching the kibbutz's homes and saved their comrades.

Avichai Elia is a member of the preparedness unit in the Havat Yair settlement in the West Bank. Upon receiving the first reports of the infiltration into the towns around the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, he hurried along with nine of his comrades to join the fight and defend the Western Negev, armed only with their handguns. Elia fought in the Ma’on junction and in Kibbutz Re’im, sustaining severe injuries and narrowly escaping. He is still undergoing surgeries and recovery.

Tal Leavitt is a farmer, a member of the preparedness unit, and a sixth-generation resident of Metula, the northernmost town in Israel on the border with Lebanon. His home was directly hit by a Lebanese missile. Together with his comrades from the preparedness unit of the town, Leavitt continues to defend Metula. He does so from an underground station, from which he and his comrades conduct the first line of defense of the home.

After the massacre in the Western Negev, members of Metula's Defense Corps deployed a network of cameras throughout the city. They also conduct surveillance beyond the border and toward enemy firing sources, aiding the IDF in identifying targets for attack. Leavitt has lived in the fortified perimeter for over six months, and he intends to continue defending Metula as needed.

Telling Israel’s Story

Alongside the brutal terror assault on the Western Negev settlements, Israel was attacked in a coordinated and immense effort in communication and social networks—disseminating false and manipulative information, employing tens of thousands of false identities, and funding campaigns steeped in hatred with hundreds of millions.

Facing online forces aiming to undermine Israel’s right to exist, many Israeli citizens chose to publicly tell Israel’s story and strengthen its position in the world, despite facing harassment and threats.

Yosef Hadad and Ella Kenan were chosen as representatives for public relations.

Yosef Hadad, from an Arab Christian family in Haifa, volunteered for combat service in the IDF, served as a commander, and was severely injured during the Second Lebanon War. After recovering, he decided to dedicate his life to promoting Israeli advocacy worldwide, emphasizing partnership between Jews and Arabs.

In 2018, he founded the “B’yachad – Aravim Zeh L’Zeh” (Together – Responsible for Each Other) association, which promotes Arab integration in Israel while reducing disparities and encouraging recruitment to the army and national service.

Starting on Oct. 7, Hadad began an extensive advocacy campaign for Israel on social networks, exposing crimes committed by Hamas. Hadad amplifies the voices of the many Arab citizens of Israel who take pride in their Israeli citizenship and desire a life of partnership and peace. His content has allowed millions to be exposed to the true face of Israeli society. Despite numerous threats on his life, Hadad continues courageously in his struggle to make Israel’s voice heard.

Ella Kenan is an Israeli travel blogger and social media influencer. As the granddaughter of Kibbutz Kfar Aza's founders and as a reservist officer, she could not stand idly by when attacks on Israel began on social media following Oct. 7. Kenan redirected all her social media activity towards the explanatory struggle for Israel.

Kenan created and promoted the hashtag #HamasIsISIS, which resonated worldwide. In her activities on the social media platform X, she fought against incitement by network influencers and assisted in the removal of channels supporting terrorism.

The highlight of her activity is the management of a global network of tens of thousands of volunteers, whose role is to immediately respond to events and generate gratitude through messages and content that represent the Israeli narrative.

A Triumphant Defense System

On the night of April 14, Iran launched over 350 ballistic missiles, drones, and cruise missiles toward Israel. It was the largest attack of its kind in the history of Israeli warfare. Even if only a small fraction of this firepower had hit its targets, the casualties and destruction would have been unimaginable.

To the amazement of the entire world, Israel, together with its partners in the Middle East and beyond, managed to intercept 99% of the incoming firepower. This historic success was achieved thanks to numerous allies, but primarily due to the dedication of Israeli men and women in technology who devote their lives to defending Israel from its enemies.

In recognition and appreciation of their contributions, Minister Regev selected Engineer Boaz Levi, Colonel (Res.) Pini Yungman, and Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Shaul Levi to light one of the twelve flames on Mount Herzl on Independence Day 2024.

Boaz Levi is a leader of the “Arrow” ballistic missile defense project. He led the operations of Arrow 2 and the development of Arrow 3. He currently serves as the CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Colonel (Res.) Pini Yungman served in the air defense system and is one of the founders of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems. Today, he heads a division in Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a military technology company.

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Shaul Levi is one of the founders of the command and control system of the “Arrow” system at Elbit Systems. He dedicated his professional life to the development of the defense system and is a key figure in the field of air defense.

Maintaining hope

Of the 256 people who were abducted to Gaza, 132 remain there, not all of them still living. Those who were released describe a daily struggle for survival and a struggle to maintain hope and solidarity. The families of the hostages, back in Israel, cope with indescribable fear and worry.

In these difficult hours, the families are guided by the personnel of the Israeli government’s POW and MIA system and the IDF’s casualty support system, as well as friends, community members, and countless Israelis who come to support, assist, and embrace.

Ori Megidish, a hostage who was rescued from Gaza by the IDF on Oct. 30 was asked by Minister Regev to light one of the flames on Mount Herzl on Independence Day 2024. Deputy Lieutenant Colonel Liat Nefesh will accompany her, representing the governmental and military system accompanying the families of POWs and the missing.

Lieutenant Colonel Ori Megidish was abducted from a post in Nahal Oz. She survived 23 days in captivity in Gaza until she was rescued in a daring operation by the IDF and Shin Bet. After a brief recovery period, Ori chose to return and continue her military service. She continues to fight for her captive brothers and sisters, telling her story and their story to the world.

Lieutenant Colonel Liat Nefesh is the head of the casualties branch in the Border Protection Division Reserves and accompanies Uri and her family. The IDF’s casualty support system accompanies the families of captives, fallen soldiers, and the physically and mentally wounded in every aspect, as part of the national effort led by the Israeli government, committed to the return of captives, supporting the wounded, honoring the fallen, and caring for their families. Liat herself is an IDF orphan, the daughter of First Sergeant Reuben Nefesh, who fell during his service as a wounded officer.

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