Jewish soldier killed in Ukraine battle is finally laid to rest

Ali Shabay's body was finally recovered 11 months after he was killed in battle in north-east of country


A Jewish soldier killed in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia was finally laid to rest last week, 11 months since he was hit by artillery during a street battle.

Ali Shabay, 45, was involved in large-scale clashes as Ukrainian forces tried but failed to defend Ternova, a village north-east of Kharkiv and close to the country’s northern border with Russia.

The Ukrainian soldiers had to leave Shabay and other injured fighters behind as they retreated.
Russian forces occupied Ternova on May 23 and Shabay was last seen motionless on the ground after an artillery strike forced his fellow soldiers to retreat.

A builder by trade, Shabay had volunteered to fight just a few days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

“He did not even tell his sister in America or his cousin in Israel, so they would not be unnecessarily worried,” Rebbtzin Miriam Moskovitz told the JC from Kharkiv.

“However, since in his last year of life he had become more interested in his Judaism, having a Jewish mother, he called up his son Amman in another city, Lviv, and said if he died he would want a Jewish burial.”

When his son and his cousin got no phone calls or texts from Shabay, they became increasingly alarmed. Eventually they managed to contact his battalion and the Red Cross.

The battalion said it had sent a drone over the site of the fierce street battle after their withdrawal and there was no sign of Shabay’s body, so his family hoped against hope that he had been taken captive by the Russians.

But the Red Cross could not find any clues as to Shabay’s fate. Last September, Ukrainian forces returned to the village as the Russians were pushed back across the border.
Ukraine announced its liberation forces had found the bodies of torture victims near the village.

But Shabay, it turned out, was not one of them. Volunteers sent by the family scoured the liberated areas for any clues but discovered nothing.

Then a couple of weeks ago, bodies that had been brought back to Kharkiv from liberated parts of northern Ukraine but had lain unidentified in a morgue were analysed. Laboratory tests showed that the DNA of one corpse matched that of Shabay’s son.

On April 24, Kharkiv’s chief rabbi, Moshe Moskovitz, buried Shabay in a moving ceremony in the city’s Jewish cemetery.

“Before he went into battle, Shabay had said if he was killed he wanted a funeral right here, alongside his mother and his grandparents,” Rabbi Moskovitz told the JC. “After a long and intensive search, we have managed to fulfil his request.”

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