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When These Israeli Soldiers Died in Gaza, Their Gay Identity Died With Them

'Noam's family just wants to bury everything and hide his identity and who he was': The death of their gay partners in Gaza meant for these bereaved partners coping with the loss alone, without support from those around them or the state

On Israel's recent Memorial Day, when family members, friends and partners of fallen soldiers visited the graves of their loved ones, there were many who were forced to remain outside the cemetery gates and mourn alone.

"I want to tell the world who he was and what he was for me – but I can't," says Dor, who lost his partner Amit in the Israel-Gaza war. "I see wives sitting shiva with the family and visiting the gravesite. I don't have that, and I miss it."

The reason Dor cannot publicly eulogize and mourn his beloved is because their relationship was a clandestine one. Like him, there are several cases known to support groups and the Israel Defense Forces of gays whose partners were killed in the war and now find themselves alone, without a supportive environment in which to share their pain and sorrow.

'I'm afraid that his story will be lost, that no one will know. I would like to reveal everything, but I'm afraid of their reaction.'

This article tells two such stories. To protect the privacy of the individuals and those near them who are in mourning, their names have been changed and certain details have been altered or deliberately left out of their accounts. Not because being gay should be something anyone needs to keep secret, but rather because of the personal requests of those interviewed.

The story of Amit and Dor started a little more than a year ago when they met over a dating app – which in many cases is virtually the only option for people in the LGBTQ community who have yet to disclose their sexual orientation. For the two men in their 20s, the option of living freely as a couple was even more complicated: they both came from conservative families and completely different parts of Israeli society.

"I always thought that when the day came that I had a serious partner, I would tell my family," says Dor. "But with Amit, the situation was more complicated. Aside from being two men, we came from different communities. My family is traditional and pretty conservative, and I worried that they would never accept it. He also kept out relationship private."

After a few months, Dor decided to introduce Amit to several of his friends who already knew he was gay. "He asked me how they reacted and how the experience was for me. I admitted that it took a load off my chest; that telling my friends was a lot easier than telling my family because if someone doesn't accept you, you can simply remove them from your life.

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