(November 22, 2021 / JNS) Eliyahu (“Eli”) David Kay, 25, a South African immigrant to Israel who was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday morning while on his way to prayers at the Western Wall, was laid to rest in the presence of thousands of mourners at Jerusalem’s Har HaMenuchot cemetery on Monday afternoon. Thousands more watched the funeral live online.
Kay, who worked as a tour guide at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, was gunned down by Hamas-affiliated terrorist and Jerusalem resident Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, an extremist who often spewed anti-Israel hate during sermons he delivered in area mosques.
Four other Israelis, two civilians and two border police officers, were wounded in the attack. One of the injured civilians, a rabbi in his 20s, remains in serious but stable condition and underwent multiple surgeries on Sunday night. As of Monday, he was said to be in an induced coma at a Jerusalem hospital.
Abu-Shkadem, who sprayed his victims with submachine gun fire, was killed by security personnel with the assistance of an armed civilian within seconds of his murderous rampage.
Kay arrived in Israel in 2016, and after studying at a yeshivah in Kiryat Gat, south of Tel Aviv, enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces’ paratroopers unit as a lone soldier where he earned the rank of sergeant.
After the army, Kay volunteered with the HaShomer HaChadash organization’s post-army program working in agriculture in the Gaza border community of Kibbutz Nirim. The organization posted on social media that “after finishing the program, Eli even stayed longer to be a field coordinator and led the agricultural work of a group of graduates.”
His parents, Avi and Devorah Kay, and three siblings who survive him—Kasriel, Chanan and Na’ama—immigrated to Israel from Johannesburg within the past year to join him and currently live in Modi’in. Both his older and younger brother enlisted in the IDF as well, with a family member telling JNS that Eli was their inspiration to join the army.
Kay served as the best man at his older brother Kasriel’s wedding several weeks ago and had a serious girlfriend at the time of his death.
‘He believed in the State of Israel’
His grandparents and other family members from both South Africa and Great Britain arrived in Israel for the funeral.
Funeral participants awaiting the ceremony sang solemn Jewish songs, with one participant carrying an Israeli flag and then the flag of Kay’s paratrooper brigade.
Representing the government, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai addressed the deceased and said, “The land of Israel which you loved so much bids you farewell with a heavy heart. Today, we say goodbye to the paratrooper, the warrior, the yeshivah student, the citizen of the State of Israel who came here to Israel to fulfill a dream—a dream which he ultimately lost his life for. May G-d avenge his death.”
Kasriel, said: “When G-d wants to take somebody he chooses the time—where and when.”
He asked the crowd: “When we leave here today, what will change in our lives? What will we do so that my brother’s memory survives forever? What will we do to perpetuate what he stood for so these things [terror attacks] don’t happen?”
Kasriel said everyone in Israel has his or her mission—from the prime minister all the way down to the youngest child. “Everyone must take responsibility for our country. Everyone has a role [whether serving in the army or in other ways], and Eli would have wanted everyone to give his 100 percent, the best of their ability in whatever works for them to protect and to advance our country.”
Michaya Beasley, Kay’s deputy company commander for a year in the paratroopers and worked very closely together with him, told JNS that “the most important trait he had was his warm and compassionate nature. He truly believed in v’eahavta l’reiacha kamocha (‘love others as you love yourself’).”
“He really believed in the State of Israel—the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel, and everything he did was derived from there,” he said.
Beasley made it a point to note that “Eli motivated his soldiers who looked up to him and admired him, as well as his commanders, as someone who left everything in South Africa to come and serve in an army far away. And even though the army is very hard, he never wavered in his belief, and he was always focused on doing what needed to be done.”
Kay’s first cousin, Chaya Fuss, told JNS that “Eli was a trailblazer, filled with love for the land of Israel. He led the way for his entire family to leave their family, friends, and community to make aliyah.”
She added that his family and friends “are devastated by this loss in the land that he loved, doing what he loved, holding his beloved holy objects. Eli loved his close knit family, his friends and his country. He was loved by all.”
As if speaking to him, Fuss added: “We have heard endless stories of bravery, kindness and spirit over the past 24 hours. May your soul [Eli] soar to the highest heights and protect us all in the next world as you did for us this one.”