In Israel, the heroic death of a gay soldier led to a change in the law

Her companion, a reservist in a special unit, was killed in the attack on October 7, two weeks before their gay “wedding”, which is not recognized in Israel. Since then, Omer Ohana has obtained the same rights as married couples for the partners of deceased homosexual soldiers.

On November 6, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, amended the language granting state support only to widows and widowers of married soldiers.

From now on, “all people who live together”, homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, can access widowhood allowance, summarizes Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu, an elected official from the centrist Yesh Atid party, who worked for the adoption of the amendment .

The partners of hostages or missing persons can also benefit from it regardless of their gender, according to the MP, who welcomes “a major step on the path to equality”.

The result of the fight led in a few weeks by Omer Ohana, 28, since the death of his partner, Sagi Golan. The two reservists had lived together for six years and had planned to “get married” on October 20, before a honeymoon in Costa Rica.

“It was more of a party with a ceremony,” explains Omer, met by AFP in their apartment in Herzliya, because “same-sex partners cannot get married in Israel” where only religious marriages are accepted.

A gay marriage contracted abroad can, however, be recognized there.

Intended for the celebrations, cotton flowers finally adorned a funeral wreath. Sagi, 30, was killed on the night of October 7-8 in fighting in Kibbutz Beeri.

“No need to talk”

When the two men woke up and learned of the surprise attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on the morning of October 7, this reservist captain from Lotar, an anti-terrorist unit, “jumped out of bed, and after a minute or two, he was already wearing his uniform,” says Omer.

There, 80 km further south, the kibbutzs surrounding the Gaza Strip are the target of Hamas. “I made him a coffee for the road, we kissed. I told him not to be a hero.”

The lovers had agreed to send each other “a heart on WhatsApp every hour, to make sure everything is going well,” explains Omer, his voice hushed. “At midnight I received the last heart. On Sunday, he did not respond.”

Also mobilized but on the northern front, on the border with Lebanon, Omer spent the following days moving heaven and earth to obtain information. In vain.

Until on the night of October 10 to 11, officers knocked on the door. “They didn’t need to talk. It was very clear.”

In Beeri, Sagi was killed after “extracting families from their shelters” and providing assistance “to a unit under fire,” Omer says between sobs. Hit in the chest, he “was already dead” when his unit recovered his body two hours later.

Devastated, Omer must also face “bureaucratic” problems. An officer “did not recognize me as Sagi’s partner,” he says. He asked the army for explanations and the soldier was sanctioned.

In a country where sexual minorities have gained increasing visibility and rights in recent decades, Sagi and Omer had “never experienced discrimination.”

“But we are still not equal in life,” he notes, bitterly.

“Becoming a father”

At the end of October, Israeli media relayed the fact that in the midst of mourning, the widower had had to battle with the administration to be entitled to the financial, psychological and medical support provided for by law.

At the beginning of November, the Knesset therefore agreed with him. But his fight does not stop there: he now intends to campaign for “a set of eight laws” which, once adopted, “will guarantee absolute equality in Israel” to LGBT people.

Receiving “thousands of messages” of support, Omer Ohana emphasizes that Israelis have been “very united” since the attack on October 7 which left some 1,200 victims, mainly civilians.

In retaliation, Israel declared a war to “annihilate” Hamas, relentlessly bombing the Gaza Strip. At least 13,000 people were involved in these strikes, the majority civilians, according to the Hamas government.

Omer Ohana today clings to Sagi’s “dream” of “becoming a father”, through surrogacy, authorized in Israel since 2021 for homosexual couples.

The deceased’s sperm was frozen. Sagi is no more, but his lover will do anything to ensure he has a child.

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