It looked like a regular beachside volleyball game in the sunset, save for the makeshift memorial on the sand. Beneath pictures of a smiling and muscular young man – Roy Peles of Tel Aviv – lay a sand-covered volleyball, letters and small candles in brown paper bags.
Before he was killed by an anti-tank missile in the northern Gaza Strip last month, the 21-year-old Israel Defense Forces officer was a regular player in the beachside volleyball games just meters from his home in Tel Aviv.
“I always wanted to be on Roy’s team because of his positive attitude,” said Gali, a fellow volleyball player who only gave her first name. “He was truly a good person.”
A photo of Roy Peles released by the Israeli army.
After a recent game of beach volleyball, a few members of the group, who call themselves the “Gordon Beach infesters,” sat to share some stories about their friend.
“We formed a group of people of different ages and backgrounds, and we had a close friendship with Roy despite the age difference,” says Uzi Cohen, a 43-year-old engineer at a local high-tech company.
“We called him ‘the kid,’” recalls Shahaf Levin, a 34-year-old aerospace engineer and long-standing member of the beach volleyball group. “We’d say, ‘Is the kid coming?’ or ‘Who’s going to pick up the kid today?’”
The memorial for Roy Peles at the Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv. Photo by Avshalom Halutz
Fit and strong, having mastered this demanding beachside sport, group members broke down this week after a visit to Peles’ parents. “They’re usually tough as nails,” observed Levin.
Still, the group is already back on the sand by Tel Aviv’s recently renovated and palm-tree lined seaside promenade, close to the popular “La La Land” restaurant and bar.
“Of course we’ll keep playing,” says Levin. “[Roy] didn’t go off to fight in Gaza so that we would sit at home, hide under our blankets and cry, but so we that we could live.”
He reports that members of a beachside folk-dancing group asked if they should stop or have a moment’s silence in memory of Roy. “We told them no, we didn’t think that’s what Roy would have wanted. He would have wanted them to keep dancing.”
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