‘I am devastated’: Australian mourns fallen IDF soldier whose father had saved his life

In 1997, Baruch Ben Yigal saved an Australian man's life at the Maccabiah Games disaster. Now he's mourning the loss of Ben Yigal's son.

Tags: Australia
Henry Benjamin, JTA ,

Baruch Ben-Yigal at his son's funeral, May 12 2020
Baruch Ben-Yigal at his son's funeral, May 12 2020
Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Nearly 25 years ago, Tom Goldman and Baruch Ben-Yigal forged a relationship that became stronger as the years passed.

Ben-Yigal had saved Goldman from drowning at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel when the bridge across the Yarkon River collapsed as the Australian team headed to the opening ceremony. The disaster killed four and injured more than 60 Australian athletes and other team delegates.

This week, Ben-Yigal suffered a tragedy: His only child, Amit, a 21-year-old Israeli soldier, was killed during a raid on a Palestinian village in the "West Bank" when he was struck in the head with a large rock hurled from a roof top.

“Baruch has been an honorary member of the Australian team in every Maccabiah since 1997,” Goldman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “In 2013, Amit helped out with the juniors also in an unofficial capacity. I am devastated.”

Goldman had flown to Israel from Sydney eight years ago to attend Amit’s bar mitzvah.

Ben-Yigal sent an iPhone message to Goldman with a photo of the two men and Amit, who called Goldman his “grandfather,” in his home saying “my life is finished. I love you Tommy.”

When an Israeli army officer visited Ben-Yigal’s home to tell him of his son’s death, Ben-Yigal asked him to contact Amit’s “grandfather” in Sydney.