Photo Credit: Abir Sultan / IDF Spokesperson / Flash 90
A training of Golani brigade with collaboration of the Infantry, Armored, Engineering, Artillery corps and the Air force in Golan Heights

More than a thousand people came to Rishon Lezion Thursday afternoon to stand with the mother of Corporal Slava Gregai, as her 20-year-old son was laid to rest.

A new immigrant from Ukraine with his mother, the young soldier was killed when his upper body was hit by a piece of steel in an accident Monday at his army base while performing routine maintenance on an armored personnel carrier.

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The incident, which took place at the El Furan base in the Golan Heights, is under investigation by the IDF.

He and his mother, Tanya, were new immigrants to Israel from Ukraine along with his step-father Dennis Gregai. With very few family members in Israel, the bereaved mother called on the public to attend her son’s funeral.

“He wanted a military career,” said his grandfather, Michael Federbush. “That was his dream.”

His friends from his unit said at the grave side that Slava’s family would now become their family – and they asked him to help them stay strong, from up above.

“Even though he was a new recruit, Slava showed great professional capabilities that impressed his commanders,” said Lt. Col. Adi Ganon, Gregai’c battalion commander in his eulogy.

“Those who knew him encountered a caring man who was always the first to volunteer and carry out any assignment. His commanders viewed him as a leading, responsible soldier with the potential of becoming an officer in the future.”

His two friends, Shir and Razek, also spoke.

“No one can comprehend the extent of this disaster that befell us,” they said. “A regular day became in an instant a sad, dark day. You left us scarred for the rest of our lives. We’re broken in spirit but strong in mind. We’re crying and we mourn your loss along with your family, that has now become our family. We hope you find peace where you’re going and help us stay strong from up above.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

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