“He died doing something we all love to do: dance and enjoy our freedom,” a friend said of Lotan Abir, who was killed early Saturday.
A 24-year-old man who recently relocated to Utah died Saturday when Hamas launched an attack on Israeli settlements near the Gaza Strip, his Salt Lake City rabbi confirmed Tuesday.
Lotan Abir was attending a rave in southern Israel late Friday along with several other members of Utah’s Jewish community as the event came under fire early Saturday, Rabbi Avremi Zippel, along with Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, said Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, over 260 people were killed and an unspecified number were taken hostage in the attack.
Two of the Utahns with whom Abir attended the event managed to escape, Zippel said, but Abir was later reported missing. His family and friends were informed of his death on Sunday.
“He was the type of person you would most like to call a friend,” Zippel said. “At a rave celebrating some of his greatest passions in life, he finally gave up his life for our people. … Just a kind, sweet, fun-loving, innocent soul who was massacred by a terrorist.”
The attack on a music festival is considered the worst massacre of civilians in Israeli history, The Associated Press reported Monday, and came as participants gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
It was part of a larger coordinated attack that began on Saturday. The Israeli military has reported over 1,000 deaths since Hamas fighters unexpectedly stormed the border with the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon declared that Israel was at war. More than 830 people have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since then, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Abir first moved to Utah in late 2022 after completing military service in Israel, Zippel recalled. Abir traveled back to Israel over the summer to attend a few events – including the August wedding of someone he was friends with in Utah’s Jewish community, Zippel said.
Elad Ogorek, one of Abir’s friends in Utah’s young Jewish professional community, visited Israel with Abir this summer. Ogorek heard about the attack by the two Utahns who were at the rave with Abir, but managed to escape.
One was injured by shattered glass when shots fired through the windows of his car, Ogorek said. After their escape, neither of them heard from Abir anymore.
“We knew it would be bad news; We didn’t know what bad news it would be,” Ogorek said. “We actually said and asked each other, ‘Which is better – being kidnapped to Gaza or just dying?'”
“Abir will be remembered as someone with a good heart, who was optimistic and always willing to help others,” Ogorek said.
“He died doing something we all love to do: dancing and enjoying our freedom,” Ogorek said, adding that Abir’s death was a “loss for all of us.”
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that 14 U.S. citizens were killed in the fighting that first broke out on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. U.S. officials said the death toll could rise, noting that about 20 Americans remain missing.
Leaders and members of Utah’s Jewish community — along with Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and other local and state leaders — planned to gather at the state’s largest synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami, on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to gather to show their support for Israel.
“Many in our community have family and friends called from reserve duty to defend Israel on its southern border and prevent escalation in the north,” the United Jewish Federation of Utah wrote in an announcement about Tuesday’s gathering.
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On Tuesday, the governor said he planned to attend another planned rally on Wednesday, at 5 p.m. on the south steps of the Capitol in support of Israel. The event includes “prayer and inspiration,” a statement said.