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The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Omer Balva: A Beacon of Kindness and Zionism Dies at 22

Used+with+permission+from+the+Balva+family.
Used with permission from the Balva family.

Omer Balva (‘19), a CESJDS alumnus who was an ardent Zionist and dreamed of moving to Israel, was killed on Oct. 20 on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Balva was a staff sergeant in the 9203rd battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He was struck by an anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah, a U.S-designated terrorist organization based in Lebanon, while he was stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

When Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, Balva was on vacation in Maryland, visiting friends for Sukkot. At the time, he was living in Israel where he was studying for a degree in business administration and economics at the Reichmann Institute in Herzliya. Balva was among the 360,000 reservists called up after Israel mobilized to prepare for their ground invasion of Gaza.

To many, Balva embodied one of JDS’ strongest qualities: community. Kehillah, meaning community in Hebrew, is one of JDS’ eight core values and is core  component of the JDS education.

“Omer was just such a great example of what a JDS student should be,” Omer’s brother Barak Balva (‘10) said. “He was friendly, and he cared about everyone. And this is where we’ve also heard so much this past month and a half, constantly from his friends that have attended [JDS]. We just get flooded with stories. There really wasn’t [any]one he wouldn’t talk to. There was no one he wouldn’t spend time and hang out with. If he saw someone sitting by themselves, he would go sit with them and talk to them, even if he wasn’t necessarily close to them. He just had this warmth and this friendliness and care and love for just absolutely everyone.”

Dean of Students Roslyn Landy said that kindness was a trait Balva always reflected.

“There was something internal in Omer, whether it came from his family or just from him, that made him a very special person,” Landy said.

Theater was one of Balva’s favorite extracurricular activities. He starred as Bill Anderson in the 2018 JDS High School Musical production of “Mamma Mia.”

Director of Arts Education Dr. David Solomon shared a memory of Balva at the memorial service held on Oct. 27. Solomon recounted that he was having a bad day, wich Balva noticed. At the end of the day, once everybody left, a message on the whiteboard of Dr. Solomon’s office was left by Balva which said, “Have a good next semester. Thanks for being the best teacher ever D Sol, Omer. P.S. come see me on Broadway.”

Balva’s life was always connected to Israel. His parents, Eyal and Sigal Balva, were both born and raised in Israel. His older brother, Barak, and his older sister, Shahar, were born in Israel as well.

However, Balva was born in the United States, so there was no obligation for him to serve in the military. Regardless, Balva followed in the footsteps of his older siblings and enlisted in the IDF instead of going to college directly like most of his classmates. While Balva did apply to a variety of colleges, he always had the intention of serving in the IDF.

“It was such a respect and love for the country that I think for him it was just the most natural thing to enlist,” Barak said.

Every JDS student takes Modern Jewish History and has to complete a “Family History Project,” in which students research and report on their Jewish family history. In Balva’s project, he discussed the life of his father and his father’s mother, and concluded the project by discussing his own life and what he hoped to do in the future.

“My passion has always been to protect Israel and suggest what is best for what I believe is the greatest country in the world,” Balva wrote. “I intend to pursue my passion through my career.”

The Balva family hopes to put together a tuition scholarship for Omer Balva. Eyal said that many people have been willing to donate towards a possible scholarship and that he believes a scholarship will be “super important so that even kids with not much money have the chance to be there [JDS].”

Balva is survived by his father Eyal, his mother Sigal, his older brother Barak, his older sister Shahar and his younger brother Itai. He was buried at a military cemetery in Herzliya on Oct. 22.

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About the Contributor
Ari Kittrie
Ari Kittrie, Managing Editor, Web
Being a Reporter and Opinion Editor during the last few years, Ari is ready to take on the position of Managing Editor. His experience includes being an Election Judge for the Montgomery County Board of Elections and volunteering for various politicians from all levels of government. Additionally, Ari enjoys in his free time wrestling, volleyball, and sometimes cooking.  

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