Ariel Zohar, a 13-year-old boy, faced the heart-wrenching task of laying his entire family to rest last Wednesday following the devastating Oct. 7 attack on Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants. That fateful morning, Ariel had chosen to go for a jog, a decision that inadvertently saved his life.
Yaniv Zohar, Ariel’s father, was not just a family man; he was a trusted and respected journalist at the forefront of significant events in the region. He was pivotal in reporting on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and was on the ground promptly during the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006.
Julie Pace, AP Executive Editor, highlighted Yaniv’s dedication and insight, mentioning how colleagues often sought Yaniv’s perspective during tense times in the Middle East.
In recent times, Yaniv showcased his skills as a photographer for the Israel Hayom daily newspaper. Colleagues remembered him as passionate, often capturing poignant moments despite the challenging scenes before him. Tragically, he and his family found themselves at the epicenter of an attack that has shaken Israel, resulting in the loss of more than 1,400 Israeli lives.
Yaniv, his wife Yasmin, daughters Tehelet and Keshet, and Yasmin’s father, Haim Livne, all lost their lives. Due to his morning jog, Ariel was the only one to escape this grim fate.
Known for his imposing stature of over 1.9 meters, Yaniv was remembered as humble and generous. His residence near the Gaza border often served as a refuge for fellow reporters. Yehuda Peretz, a close colleague, remembered him fondly, remarking on the size of his heart.
The grim reality of the conflict punctuated the funeral in central Israel, as air-raid sirens and rocket fire disturbed the somber proceedings. The burial delay was due to the overwhelming number of casualties and the meticulous identification process.
During the service, Sivan, Yaniv’s sister, expressed the family’s profound grief and resilience. With Ariel set to be cared for by family members, plans to hold his bar mitzvah ceremony next month are moving forward, emphasizing the family’s determination to celebrate life amidst tragedy.
Across the nation, funerals like this have become tragically commonplace, with many families mourning their loved ones. Now mourning the loss of over 1,400 of its citizens, Israel is bracing itself for further military action and an anticipated ground offensive in Gaza.
The nation grapples with the stark reality of defending its people and homes against further violence following Hamas’s grievous attack, which left thousands injured and hundreds taken hostage.