U.S. lawmakers and Jewish institutions are mourning the death of Israeli-American Omer Balva of Rockville, Md., who was visiting family members in nearby Potomac when his reserve infantry unit was recalled.
Balva, 22, a 2019 graduate of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School who had moved to Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces, left on Oct. 14 after being called up, The Washington Post reported. A week later, on Oct. 20, he was killed after being hit by an antitank missile that Hezbollah fired from Lebanon.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who is Jewish and also attended the same school, wrote that he is “heartbroken” about the death of Balva, who “answered the call in the fight against terrorism and gave the fullest measure of devotion to the State of Israel.”
“Despondent to learn of the loss of Omer Balva, a 22-year old American who grew up in Rockville and was killed this weekend by a Hezbollah missile strike,” wrote Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is also Jewish. “He’s one of thousands—mostly Israeli and Palestinian but American, too—who’ve died since Oct. 7.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote that it was “gut-wrenching” to lose Balva. “Since Hamas’s despicable attack, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians and dozens of Americans have died,” he said. “Each of these losses tears apart families and communities. My heart is heavy for all experiencing this pain.”
So, too, did Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), who wrote on Oct. 21: “This morning, Iran-backed terrorists in Lebanon killed Omer Balva, an American citizen. I fully support Israel in its fight to eradicate terrorists threatening its survival. May Omer’s memory be a blessing.”
‘Brought light to the world’
The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville stated that “Omer was proudly serving in the IDF. He was a beloved student who attended CESJDS from age 7 through his high school graduation. He is a hero to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the school. We are devastated and heartbroken.”
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, attended Balva’s funeral. “A blessing to attend the funeral of Staff Sgt. (res.) Omer Balva,” he wrote. “A hero and a patriot. May his memory forever be for a blessing. May his strength carry us, the soldiers and the hostages forward in his merit.”
On Oct. 13, the last night Balva would spend in the United States, he was at home, filling a duffel bag with the supplies bought for the 9203rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade. Then Balva, called up by his IDF reservist unit, flew back to Israel.
Ethan Missner, 23, who had purchased elbow pads, earmuffs and other gear with Balva, which they packed together, called his friend “such a loving person” … “he brought a lot of light to the world.”
Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, who leads day school, said Balva was “an unabashed advocate for the State of Israel. He is a hero to the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the school. We mourn his loss.”