Those We Have Lost

2nd Lt. Yannai Kaminka, 20: US-Israeli soldier died saving lives

Killed battling Hamas at the Zikim Base, October 7

Second Lt. Yannai Kaminka who was killed on Zikim base on October 7, 2023. (IDF)
Second Lt. Yannai Kaminka who was killed on Zikim base on October 7, 2023. (IDF)

2nd Lt. Yannai Kaminka, 20, a commander in the Home Front Command, was killed battling against Hamas in southern Israel on October 7.

Kaminka, a dual US-Israel citizen who grew up in Tzur Hadassah, just outside Jerusalem, was serving at the Zikim IDF training base when Hamas terrorists stormed across the Gaza border and attempted to take control of the army base.

His mother, Elana Kaminka, told Fox News that her son headed to the guard posts of the base to help try and repel the Hamas invasion.

“His trainees meant so much to him, and he took so much responsibility for them,” she said. “He put himself in the line of danger to keep them protected, and he succeeded.”

Mother Elana said that while he died just short of his 21st birthday, “he had maturity in a deep, very deep personal ethics that I think is unusual for someone his age… He really believed in seeing the humanity in each and every person that he met.”

Kaminka’s grandmother, Brenda Wolfson, who lives in Sacramento, California, told a local news outlet that she was comforted to know her grandson saved many lives before he was killed. Wolfson said she flew to Israel for his funeral and met a young woman and her mother who said Kaminka had saved her life.

“She said, ‘This is my daughter, and your grandson saved her life. She received this head wound in the middle of the fight, and [Kaminka] dragged her to safety, bandaged her head, put her behind a column or whatever and ran out and continued fighting and she lived,’” Wolfson said. “That’s really the comfort — knowing so many peoples’ lives were saved.”

Benjamin Siegel, who was a member of the local Tzofim scouts chapter where Kaminka was a leader, wrote in JTA that the late soldier was “smart, fun, funny, strong. We always tried to tackle him and take him down, but he was too strong for us. We didn’t mind. He was like a big brother to us all.”

Kaminka’s mother said their sense of loss will never truly go away.

“It’s like a car with a wheel missing,” she told Fox. “You know, there’s a part that’s not there, and you can’t — nothing can fix that.”

Read more Those We Have Lost stories here.

Most Popular
read more: