One of the 28 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza since Israel began ground operations five days ago was an immigrant from France, bringing to three the total number of known “lone soldiers” – soldiers from abroad without family in Israel – who have died fighting in Gaza in recent days. Two Americans died in Gaza overnight Saturday.
Staff Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun – who is being buried Tuesday night in the military cemetery in Ashkelon – was born and raised in Lyon, France, and immigrated to Israel in 2008. He lived in Ashkelon, the coastal city which has become one of the most frequently targeted by rockets from Hamas in Gaza.
Bensemhoun, 22, was killed when the military vehicle he was traveling in was hit by an anti-tank missile. He was one of the 13 Golani fighters killed in the area of Shujaiyeh in Gaza City. The French newspaper “Le Monde Juif” reported that he had planned to stay in the army and become a career officer.
Bensemhoun enlisted two years ago, and was keen to serve in an Israel Defense Forces combat unit. Back in February, Bensemhoun posted a picture of his uniformed on Facebook showing his wings and arm-patch of the elite Golani Brigades, with the message: “I’ll be back in a few months!”
Bensemhoun was one of about 5,100 new immigrant soldiers serving in the IDF, Oded Forer, the director-general of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, told Haaretz. Nissim Slama, who immigrated to Israel from Paris 10 years ago, met Bensemhoun several times through the Lone Soldier Center, which supports soldiers who come to Israel from abroad.
“We are like a big family, especially those of us from France,” Slama said. “The lone soldiers [soldiers without family in the country, usually immigrants] are paying a high price in Gaza for their motivation and dedication. They come from abroad and want to defend Israel and ensure the state’s survival, and they do their best. It’s always harder for them, being here without the usual level of family support.”
Bensemhoun leaves behind his parents, two sisters, and a girlfriend. On Monday evening, the Chaaré Tsedek synagogue in Lyon, his home community, held a memorial service for him.
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