Tel Aviv, Israel:
Sagi Golan and Omer Ohana were planning to get "married" later in October (AFP)
His special forces reservist partner was killed in the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, two weeks before their scheduled gay "wedding".
But even though same-sex marriages are not officially recognized in Israel, Omer Ohana has since won gay soldiers' partners the same rights to a widow's pension as married couples.
His partner Sagi Golan was killed at Beeri kibbutz on the night of October 7.
A reserve captain in the Lotar anti-terrorism unit, he decided to head to Beeri, one of the worst-hit locations, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the south, when they learned of the attacks.
The 30-year-old "jumped out of bed, and after a minute or two already he was wearing his uniform", Ohana said.
"I made him a coffee to take with him, and we kissed," Ohana said. "I told him not to be a hero."
They agreed to send each other hearts on WhatsApp every hour to let each other know "everything is OK". Ohana said. "On midnight, I got the last heart from Sagi."
Only religious marriages are recorded in Israel, although the state recognizes gay marriages formalized abroad.
The two reservists had lived together for six years and were planning to get "married" later in October, before honeymooning in Costa Rica.
It would have been "more like one party with a ceremony", Ohana told AFP in his apartment in central Israel.
Instead, the cotton flowers intended as decorations for the celebration were used in a funeral wreath for Golan.
Ohana, 28, was also mobilised, but for the northern front on the border with Lebanon.
In the days that followed, he sought in vain to get information about Golan, until military officers knocked on his door on the night of October 10.
"They didn't have to say anything. It was very clear," he said.
Golan had been killed in Beeri after having "extracted Israeli families from shelters" and was then "called to evacuate a team under fire", Ohana said, sobbing.
Shot in the chest, Golan "was already dead" when his body was recovered two hours later.
"I'm just hoping that he didn't experience the pain, that it was quick."
A devastated Ohana had to face his own battle with military bureaucracy.
At first, he struggled to receive financial, medical and psychological support from the state.
One officer "did not recognise me as Sagi's partner", he said.
Ohana demanded that his rights as a partner be enshrined in law.
In a country where sexual minorities have gained visibility and increased rights in recent decades, Ohana said he and Golan "never experienced discrimination".
"But we are still not equal in life," he said bitterly.
After a public outcry, on November 6, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, amended the law to give a widow's allowance to all dead soldiers' partners in common-law relationships, heterosexual as well as gay, instead of restricting state support to widows and widowers of married soldiers.
Partners of hostages or disappeared people can also receive the allowance regardless of their gender, said parliamentarian Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu of the centrist Yesh Atid party, who proposed the amendment and hailed it as "a major step on the path to equality".
Ohana has received "thousands of messages" of support, and believes Israelis are "very united" since the October 7 attack that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
In retaliation, Israel has declared it would annihilate Hamas, and has relentlessly bombarded the besieged Palestinian territory.
At least 13,000 people in Gaza have been killed in air strikes and ground fighting, mostly civilians, according to Hamas.
Ohana's struggle is not over: he now intends to campaign for "a bundle of eight laws" which, once adopted, "will get absolute equality in Israel" for LGBTQ people.
One right that gay couples have enjoyed in Israel since 2021 is surrogacy, and Ohana said he would do everything he could to enable Golan -- whose sperm was frozen -- to become a posthumous parent.
"Sagi's dream was to be a father," he said. "And now it's my mission to accomplish this dream."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)