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  • Writer's pictureRabbi David Gerber

Today I Met a Hero

Updated: Mar 21

Sagiv Ben Zvi, zichrono l'vracha (may his memory be a blessing), had his life taken from him on October 7th. He was attending the Nova music festival when Hamas attacked. Today I met his mother, Natalia, as well as his cousin and aunt.


Natalia spoke lovingly about her son, telling us that he was strong and beautiful like King David. That he was a pursuer of peace like Aaron. That he was the type to hold the door open for strangers and carry heavy items for the elderly. He was a person of character who would do the right thing when nobody is looking.


When he traveled to the West Bank, he would bring bags of candy for the Palestinian children.


He had hundreds of friends, each one claiming that he was their best friend. Natalia joked that he could have been a politician.


Natalia experienced what no mother should ever have to see. As she awoke to sirens and alerts on October 7th, she had a couple of phone calls with her son. He assured her that he was making his way to safety. She received one last call, and then silence.


I can't begin to imagine the sheer terror of not knowing the fate of her son. She would later learn that he was murdered on that day. Executed by Hamas.


Those of us outside of Israel keep hearing that Hamas was wearing GoPros and recording their atrocities live on camera. Natalia watched the video of her son's murder.


When Sagiv realized his life was soon to end, he didn't duck, hide, or cower. He stood straight up and looked his murderer in the eyes. He didn't blink.


Natalia is a good Jewish mother. She knows what her son is saying even when he is not speaking. While Sagiv did not say anything aloud, she could read in his eyes:

You can kill me today. You can take my life. But my family will remember me. The Jewish people will prevail.

Natalia is now fighting the war that her son should be fighting. She is sharing her story with people like me and with Jewish communities around the world. She is fighting the hatred of antisemitism. She is fighting against the pure evil that Israel is facing.


Sagiv Ben Zvi believed in true peace. Natalia knows that the path to peace is to rid the region of the type of evil that led to her son's murder.


Natalia worries that people are forgetting October 7th. Public discourse has shifted so far away that many people are forgetting that this was the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust, and that Israel is facing its longest war since the War of Independence.


Above all else, the world is forgetting that all Israel wants is peace. Israel didn't want this war and despises having to fight it -- but will prevail nonetheless.


That Natalia is willing to tell Sagiv's story is heroic. She is a hero. Her son should be the hero... he could have been anything he wanted. He was destined to be great. But in his stead, Natalia carries his light. She has the strength to make a positive difference in this world because she is guided by her son's undending love:

“I believe wherever he is right now, he is guiding me, giving me the strength and telling me exactly what to do to fight for my country and to fight for you,” she said. “Tell our story, go out there, be proud Jews, don’t be afraid. Look at the people that denied our existence and say, "We will still be here; we have been here for thousands of years; and we will be here for a long, long time.”

Natalia could be entirely consumed by the pure hatred of Hamas, but instead she is inspired by the love of her son.


We all have a part to play in this war. One of the most important things I have learned so far on my mission to Israel is how important it is to tell the stories not only of the hostages, but of the victims of October 7th. All of us in the room promised to make sure as many people as possible know Sagiv.


Please share Natalia's story. Say her son's name out loud. Sagiv Ben Zvi. Let his name inspire us in this fight. In doing so, his memory will be a living blessing for us and our people Israel.

 
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