Yotam Gilboa — May His Memory Be a Blessing.

Yotam Gilboa of Kehillah 2002, was killed on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006 in southern Lebanon while fighting as part of an elite combat army unit against Hezbollah terrorists. He was 21 years old.

Yotam’s courage and selflessness in his army service reflects the strong and giving nature of his character. We remember the initiative he took in taking positions of leadership within the Nesiya group, as well as the pride he had for his kibbutz background. Yotam worked as a paramedic before being drafted into the army in 2004, and planned to study physics upon his release. As a participant in Nesiya, Yotam often expressed the depths of his commitment to the land and state of Israel, and his eagerness to engage in a meaningful and challenging army service.

Yotam is remembered by his friends, family and everyone who knew him as a powerful young man, a true friend and an inspiring leader. We are deeply saddened by this loss.

We would like to encourage members of Kehillah 2002, others who knew Yotam, and those who simply feel a connection to what is going on in Israel now, to express their thoughts, feelings and stories below.

If you would like to send a message to appear on this page, please email your message to info@nesiya.org, with the subject line “Thoughts on Yotam”.

We will miss you Yotam. Thank you for the blessing that you were in our lives.

Student Initiative Remembers a Fallen Soldier/Friend – featured in Jewlicious
St. Sgt. Yotam Gilboa – featured in One Family
Letter from Haifa: Life and Death – featured in Hadassah Magazine

Note from Carole White

Carole White, Mother of Matthew, Kehillah '06, California, 25th July 2006

It is with great sadness that I read of Yotam’s passing. As the mother of Matthew White, a North American Nesiya Kehillah 2006 participant, my heart aches for the family of Yotam, for his friends, for his country. May he rest in peace, and may God bless Israel and the United States of America.

Note from Elana Roberts

Elana Roberts, Mother of Jollie, Kehillah '06, NYC, 24th July 2006

I am profoundly saddened for you by the death of one of your beloved Kehilla members. I did not know Yotam, but I do know what close community is and that he was “one of your own.” What a loss you must feel. What a void. Someone once told me, that the only thing good about a broken heart, is that one day from that brokeness, through those cracks, a space is created and the light will come through. My thoughts are with you and all who knew and loved Yotam.

Note from Lucien Matalon

Lucien Matalon, Grandmother of Yahel, Kehillah '04

I am a French born Jew living in Argentina, and I wish to express my deep sorrow for the death of Yoram. I of course never met him, but I feel that I knew him all my life. And it is with great sadness that I learn of his premature death, as that of others brave soldiers of Israel.

We all are anguished by the present difficult situation, Israel has not had peace since the first day of its existence, not even the understanding of the world. Can we hope that the sacrifice of Yotam will not be in vain, and that it will contribute to the well being of Israel in the future ? I wish for that to happen from the bottom of my heart.

To the family and friends of Yotam go my warmest sorrow, and my prayers.

With deep sympathy,

Lucien Matalon

Note from Susan Cutler, Parent, Nesiya 2006

Susan Cutler, Mother of Arielle, Kehillah '06, CT

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Yotam Gilboa. We did not know him, but we have a son about his age, so we know how he is your sweet little boy who grows up to be a beautiful young man. Your pain must be unbearable. We are so very sorry, we are thinking of you, and your pain, and your loss.

Susan Cutler, Parent, Nesiya 2006

Note from Sandy Savett

After visiting Israel for the first time one month ago, I can understand the love of country. It is a sad situation, and I can only hope that things get better.

Please except my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. May G-d give you strength to carry on.

Note from Nira Weiss

Nira Weiss, Mother of Yoav, Kehillah '04, Los Angeles, 27th July 2006

After hearing of Yotam’s death, I am hurting with you.

My son, Yoav, was a participant during summer 2004. It was an experience like no other, due to the rich program, its organization, and mostly because of the Israeli participants who shared their summer with the Americans. From Yoav’s description, I understood how the Israeli participants were so special and how they served as positive ambassadors for the land of Israel, as they showed their love for the land of Israel.

I did not know Yotam, but I feel like I know who he was. He was a person that created a real connection to Israel for the American participants, served as a role model and taught Hebrew language and slang, and helped the Americans feel at home. Yotam was a leader, a person who takes responsibility, who contributes. For me, he is Israel.

Yotam’s family- you are so special because you had the opportunity to raise such a child.

These are hard days for every Israeli, even those of us who live in the Diaspora, but you, Yotam’s family, you sacrificed the most.

Sandprints

Kehillah 2 Group Book, Summer 2002
יותם

Note from Rachel Shmookler, Nesiya '04

May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Note from Lindsay Citerman

Lindsay Citerman, Kehillah 1 Group Book, Summer 2002

From the Kehillah 1 Group Book, July 2002

Once upon a time, Lindsay was out hiking with the group of groovy Nesiya folks up Har Meron. It was lovely.

Lindsay was responsible for the group cell phone, which she kept strapped onto her backpack at all times. The group stopped for a rest and a program at the top and then continued the journey down the mountain to the field school. Only at the bottom did Lindsay suddenly realize there was no longer a cell phone. Where was it? What to do? The only thing to do was run back up to find it.

Yotam gallantly agreed to accompany Lindsay because in his words, “no one should hike alone.”

So the two of them left the rest of the hikers and began their ascent. They ran like the wind back up the mountain – both seemed to have mysterious energy to spare. They told stories and came up with ridiculous scenarios to tell if they couldn’t find it. They reached the spot where the phone should have been – but nothing was there. Oh no!

Lindsay pulled out her own cell phone and called the K1 phone. They heard a faint ringing… was it under the leaves? In the tree? On the bench? Where could it be?

Suddenly, it dawned on them to look in Lindsay’s backpack – the very one she’d had all along- and behold, there it was! OOPS!

Note from Melanie Lidman

Melanie Lidman, Boston, Kehillah '02, Boston, 21st July 2006

…A phone call of the most horrifying sort. I was eating felafel, heaped with hummous and chips when it came. Standing at the bus stop as our bus is pulling up, hearing those words: “Do you remember Yotam?” Of course, Yotam the kibbutznik. Strong, silent, Israeli. Exactly the kind of person you picture when you think “kibbutznik.” Now in the army somewhere in some elite unit, just like we knew he would be. Of course I remember Yotam.

“He was killed today in Southern Lebanon.”

Yotam?!? Not our Yotam!! He’s only 21. 21 like you and me! It can’t be true. It’s not on the news yet, it can’t be true. “I have to go,” and we hung up the phone.

Sobbing–wandering the streets of Jerusalem by myself, no idea where I’m going and no idea why. I know this street–Yaffo Street–like the back of my hand but somehow it looks different through the tears. I can’t explain why I’m so upset, sad, lost. We weren’t that close. I haven’t seen you in two years and we didn’t keep in touch.

But something–something about you, Yotam.

Do you remember, Yotam, when Or and I came to visit your kibbutz? You gave me the best hug ever. You had just started the army that month or maybe a little while before and you were so proud. But modest, always modest. I was terrified of your gun. And we met your girlfriend and looked at pictures.

Do you remember, Yotam, how you used to play guitar on Friday afternoons before Shabbos on our trip, teaching me Israeli songs? I remember one Friday in the Golan–we could see Lebanon and Syria from the hill outside the gate–laying in the grass and laughing with a group of people. Or do you remember how you climbed an entire mountain all over again because Lindsay thought she forgot her cell phone at the top? Everyone laughed when you guys told the story about how, at the very top, she found the phone in her bag.

Do you remember, Yotam, how I thought you could do anything? YOU were “kibbutz” for me.

No one knows anything for sure yet as I continue walking. Jerusalem–Israel–this country that I love, that I know you love–that you died to defend. I wish I could make the people walking past me see what you did for them shake them ask them yell “Are you grateful??? He was only 21 and he died for this country!!”

A wedding car decorated with white and purple ribbons passes and fresh tears stream down my face as I think of all the things you will never do–get married, go to university, have children, hike another mountain. You will never again work with the fish on kibbutz and never again impress us with your barbecuing skills.

Other calls come and its no longer possible to pretend. And no one knows the details but Yotam I don’t want to. I’m scared for you and all of our other friends in the army and I’m so sad for you, Yotam, our kibbutznik. And when your face stares up at me from the front page of the paper the next morning the tears come again and I can’t believe that “Yotam Gilboa z”l” is my Yotam Gilboa.

The second processional: Seeing your coffin drapped with the Israeli flag–seeing your parents and your girlfriend and your brothers and one of them looks so much like you I catch my breath and think maybe it was a mistake.

The second processional is longer and slower and more solemn as we walk towards the kibbutz graveyard. Your parents lean on each other for support and everyone is crying. Again I see more friends I haven’t seen in years, but the hugs are fierce instead of joyous and the silences between us are too heavy to fill.

And there’s an image in my mind that I will never be able to erase for as long as I live: the soldiers, proud in their green uniforms, so official, working in silent unison to shovel dirt on your grave. It was only then that I understood you were gone.

And I can’t remember so much of what people said, except that I wanted everyone in the whole world to know that they weren’t just saying it–that it was TRUE. That you WERE a friend to everyone and you cared so much and you always made sure everything was OK. That you were Yotam.

I’m sitting here now looking at the hills of Israel in the golden afternoon light before Shabbos. The breeze smells sweet and the land has a special biblical beauty to it. I’ve found the tears coming at strange points today when I remember you’re gone. Tears I can’t explain for a loss I can’t fill or understand. To Israel maybe you were just another soldier with your picture in the news, but to me you were a friend.