Jews around the world honour the memory of Eli Kay by doing good deeds in his name
By Michael Kransdorff
Eli Kay was 25 years old. He was deeply committed to Israel and the Jewish people. He made Aliyah from South Africa to Israel as a Lone Soldier. Eli worked as a tour guide at the Western Wall, guiding people through the sacred tunnels.
A few weeks ago, he was gunned down by a Hamas-affiliated terrorist on his way to pray at the Kotel (Western/Wailing Wall) with his Tefillin in his hand.
While this act of terrorism was an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends, it was also an attack on Klal Yisrael (all of Israel). It was an attempt to deny the Jewish people’s right to pray at our holiest site.
How would we respond?
Rabbi Ari Shishler, a Chabad Rabbi based in Johannesburg and a close friend of the Kay family, said in an online address after the attack:
“We are all in shock over the heinous murder of our friend Eli Kay. This was not an attack on an individual. It was an attack on Jews, Judaism and the conscience of all civilised people“.
We felt this required a response. With the help of Rabbi Ari Shishler, Rabbi Eitan Ash and Josh Maraney, we decided to launch the #TefillinAgainstTerror campaign. We began by calling on people to post selfies of themselves putting on Tefillin with the hashtag #TefillinAgainstTerror in Eli’s memory and as an act of defiance against terror and Antisemitism.
The response has been phenomenal.
The campaign has gone global. Thousands of people from all over the world including far flung places like Aruba and Mexico have responded on social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In Israel, people have embraced this call by coming to the Shiva house and asking to put on Tefillin. The family has been overwhelmed by the love and support.
Women also wanted to do something special to honour Eli’s memory because laying Tefillin is a commandment fulfilled by men.
The campaign was broadened to include candle lighting for the Sabbath in Eli’s memory. The recent festival of Hanukkah provided an opportunity to once against reaffirm our right to freely practice our faith. Just as the Maccabees were able to keep the oil burning in the Temple against all odds, we will not let terrorism deter us now from bringing light into the world.
To date, many around Israel and the world have done acts of kindness to share light against terror. A popular journalist based in Jerusalem and her husband donated sufganiyot (donuts) to soldiers on duty. A group called “Friends of WIZO” who support a WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) shelter against domestic violence, dedicated a Hanukkah party in his honour.
The most high-profile act of memorial was by popular hard rock band, Disturbed’s front man, David Draiman. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post from his home in Hawaii, Draiman said he wanted to make a statement by coming to Israel after seeing the coverage of the attack.
“The coverage was reprehensible in the vast majority of American and European media,” said Draiman. “It’s scandalous how they presented it. Headlines like ‘Palestinian shot dead.’ Well, why was the Palestinian shot dead? Because he was perpetrating a terrorist attack. I love how the context is always flipped around.”
Draiman, who noted that he has some 200 relatives living in Israel, said that his candle-lighting ceremony is intended to say that:
“we will not be intimidated, we’re not going anywhere. People need to learn to live with us [Jews].”
He made good on his word by coming to Jerusalem and lighting a candle at the spot where Eli was brutally gunned down.
The word Hanukkah means “dedication”. Eli was dedicated to his family and friends, Israel and the Jewish people. And many responded in kind by dedicated acts of kindness in his name.
Am Yisrael Chai!
About the writer:
Michael Kransdorff is a Harvard educated financial innovation consultant. In addition to crunching numbers, politics and Jewish history are his passions. He cut his teeth in Jewish activism as one of the SAUJS leaders at the infamous UN Durban Racism Conference and has remained involved in Jewish communal affairs. Michael is chairman of JNF SA, sits on the South African Zionist Federation EOB and also heads up a Litvak heritage research group for the Zarasai (North Eastern) region of Lithuania.
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