Jerusalem, Israel - Apr. 16, 2024  - President Isaac Herzog hosted at Beit Hanasi on Monday evening in Jerusalem, Israel, a ceremony honoring Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka, and Alon Shamriz, z'l, the three hostages who were killed by friendly fire in the Gaza Strip.

On December 15, 2023, IDF soldiers operating in Shuja'iyya, Gaza, mistakenly shot three Israeli hostages as they escaped from their captives in the active combat zone. During the Hamas October 7 invasion of southern Israel Haim and Shamriz were kidnapped from Kfar Aza and Talalka was kidnapped from the Kibbutz Nir Am and taken into Gaza. 

At the event with their three families and supporters, there was a lot of hugging, plus a few tears. No flowers adorned the podium where Yotam's mother, Samar's uncle, and Alon's brother spoke for the family after receiving the unique certificates of recognition in the name of the State of Israel from President Herzog.

President Isaac Herzog’s address at the ceremony:

“Because friendship like this will never Permit our hearts to forget Love sanctified with blood will once more bloom among us.”

These piercing, painful words of Haim Gouri – the fighter and poet of the generation of the rebirth (of Israel), repeat in our heads over and over as we gather here today to honor together the bravery of Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka, and Alon Shamriz, may their memory be a blessing.

Three brave Israelis, whose fates were intertwined when they fell under friendly fire as they tried to save themselves from the murderous hands of their captors. With determination, courage, and exceptional mutual commitment, they embarked on a mission to rescue themselves from the “Valley of Death”, against all the odds. A journey that tragically ended with their death on the battlefield. "Love sanctified in blood."

This unbelievable story, and its horrific end, tear our hearts to shreds. The pain, the frustration, the utter sorrow – for what could have been, for the bitter turn it took, for the hopes that were crushed – consumed the soul and heart of an entire nation on that difficult Friday evening. The words "save us" written on food wrappers, with remnants of strength, and the cries of "hostages" still echo within us like the cries of an entire nation enduring such a terrible disaster.  

The story of these three heroes is first and foremost a story of supreme bravery. Above all, it is a compelling tale of the human spirit. The pain and agony they experienced, Samar, Alon, and Yotam, stirred within them a unique bravery: a bravery preserved for the chosen few. A bravery that I felt a yearning and duty to acknowledge, honor, and recognize on behalf of the entire nation.

Three Israelis not born to the same path in life, bound together, blindly and murderously, by the scorched evil of Hamas, to share one fate and so, they chose to fight together, to rise from the dust and put all their might into choosing life, as one man with one heart.

Beloved Shamriz, Talalka, and Haim families: You have endured such profound agony, endured long nights of fear and worry for the safety of your sons, and breathless days, filled with prayer and hope. And after them, shattered days, crisis, tremendous shock, and terrible grief when the news of their deaths broke when hopes to ever see them again were dashed. It takes immense strength of spirit to endure all this. To see your courageous coping it is clear to us all from where Yotam, Alon, and Samar derived their unimaginable bravery, and from where they drew their strength.

I am filled with hope and prayer that within this pain the spirit of bravery and resilience that Alon, Samar, and Yotam demonstrated will also serve to assure you that days of light and kindness will come. We all draw hope from the courage and spirit of your loved ones, and I pray, wish, believe, and am even certain that you will merit to see days of joy and happiness here in our beloved land.

At this crucial moment, we ask you to embrace in our hearts all the families of the hostages, who have been in an ongoing, turbulent nightmare for half a year, we cry their cries along with them. The heart of an entire nation beats in Gaza, for half a year, and we never forget – not for a moment – neither the families nor the hostages. The covenant between the state and its citizens obliges us to act in every way, with creativity, determination, and courage to bring our sons and daughters back home.

Amidst this crisis, and during times of the most challenging security situation, I ask to strengthen and embrace the IDF, the Shin Bet, and all security forces - our sons and daughters, fighting in the most complex battlefield. I know from many conversations with the soldiers that etched in their hearts is the command – "bring the hostages home".

Dear families, on the certificate of honor that I – as the President of the State of Israel – award you today, it is written: "The State of Israel hereby expresses its deep appreciation for the bravery of Yotam, Samar, and Alon, each of whom, with great courage and exceptional mutual commitment, acted to rescue himself and his brothers from danger and captivity, and fell with valor in the heart of the battlefield. We will etch in our hearts forever their initiative, determination, and unique courage they showed on the dangerous and turbulent frontline, balanced between peril and salvation, between darkness and light, between bondage and redemption.”

"May the memory of Samar, Alon, and Yotam be engraved in the heart of Israel from generation to generation and bound in the bond of life forever. And to the Talalka family, I say: (In Arabic) May Allah have mercy on Samar and grant him the highest heavens, and may He grant you comfort and consolation."

The bittersweet event for Samar, Alon, and Yotam was reminiscent of another time almost ten years ago when three families were brought together in tragedy. When the three Israeli teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped near Alon Shvut by Hamas terrorists.