A 22-year-old Israeli military reservist who grew up outside Washington, D.C., was killed Friday by anti-tank missile fire near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces and his family said.
Omer Balva, a staff sergeant and platoon commander in the 9203 battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade, was one ofcalled up to serve since Israel in the wake of the militant group’s Oct. 7 terror attack. His death came as along the Israel-Lebanon border, where an Israeli town was ordered to evacuate last week amid almost daily exchanges of artillery fire between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah, another militant group backed by Iran.
“Yesterday, SSGT (res.) Omer Balva, a reservist in the Artillery Corps, was killed by anti-tank missile fire adjacent to the northern border. The IDF will not stand by as its soldiers and civilians are attacked,” the IDF wrote Friday in its daily newsletter summarizing developments in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Balva’s father, Eyal Balva, confirmed his son’s death in an email to CBS News on Saturday and said the family was planning a funeral for the following day.
Raised in Rockville, Maryland, Omer Balva had been a student at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, the school said in a Facebook post.
“Omer was proudly serving in the Israeli Defense Forces having been recently called up for reserve duty,” the post read. “He was a beloved student who attended CESJDS from age seven through his high school graduation. Omer 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 are devastated and heartbroken.”
After graduating high school in 2019, Balva moved to Israel, CBS affiliate WUSA reported. He was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel, according to the university, which noted his death along with the deaths of other students in a page on its website.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington wrote on Facebook: “We mourn the heartbreaking loss of Omer Balva, z”l, a dual citizen of Israel and America, who lived in Rockville and was an alumnus of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.”
Balva had been home visiting Maryland the week before when he received a call to return to Israel and serve in the military reserves, WUSA reported. Ethan Missner, his friend and former classmate at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, told the station Balva was “the most genuine … the sweetest person I will ever know.”
Missner told WUSA that Balva had served in the Israeli military when he first moved to Israel from the United States, and shared a letter that his friend had written to him around that time, looking forward to what he hoped their lives would bring.
“I want you to know that every time I’m sad,” the letter said, according to WUSA, “I go to this one thought of me and you at the age of 24 or 25 with our families on vacation, the thought of us with wives and children we love and are able to support always brings a smile to my face. Love you more than anything — whenever you need me and I am on a mission just read this letter. Love you dude and remember we are only a few years away from our dream.”