Thousands of people participated Monday in the funeral for Eli Kay, 26, who was shot dead the day before in a Jerusalem terror attack and was eulogized for his energetic will to contribute to Israel.
Kay, a recent immigrant from South Africa who was employed at the Western Wall as a tour guide, was shot by a Hamas gunman in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, Culture Minister Chili Tropper, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attended the funeral at the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery in the capital.
Shai vowed the government would do everything to bring those responsible to justice and relentlessly fight terrorism.
“Eli’s story is the story of Israel at its best,” said Shai of the South African immigrant and former IDF paratrooper, calling him “the best of the best.”
“Israel thanks you today,” Shai said, adding that “Israel promises to fight terror every day, every hour.”
“We promise to grow… to flourish, so that this place will always be a home for the people of Israel,” Shai said.
Eli Kay’s brother Kasriel Kay said he wouldn’t eulogize his brother, per his Chabad Hasidic tradition. Instead, he urged the crowd of mourners to change their lives for the better in his memory.
“There’s no reason to be sad for him… He will be at peace,” Kasriel said and recalled that his brother had survived combat in the Gaza Strip. “When the Holy One wants a person, he takes him. Eli would have [chosen] no other way [to die], either this or in the middle of the war.”
“My great-grandfather Eliyahu is waiting for him [in heaven], King David is waiting for him, and they’ll take care of him,” he said, invoking his brother’s namesakes.
“Eli would have wanted every single person to give… to the best of their ability, in whatever way works for them,” for Israel, Kasriel said.
“Eli was just a maverick. He was an amazing kid,” his father Avi told Channel 12 news. “From when he was very young, he was different, he was energetic, he had his own mind, he was super bright. And he simply lived his life with just energy, doing what he felt was correct, always guided by his moral conviction and his moral compass.”
“He was a great musician, enjoyed music, enjoyed partying, enjoyed his friends,” said his father. “Then he went to yeshiva and excelled. And then he decided he was going to go to the army, but he knew exactly where he was going to go [to do his service]…”
“This is the way Hashem chose for him to go — in the place that he loved, in the city that he loved. And, who knows, maybe because of him, many, many other people are here today.”
Referring to Kay and his family, who followed him in moving to Israel, Chief Rabbi Lau said the murderer and those behind him had struck “a dear soul and wounded dear people.”
Kay had been walking to work when the terrorist, East Jerusalem resident Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, a Hamas activist, opened fire and fatally wounded him.
He was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where he was pronounced dead.
Abu Shkhaydam was shot dead by police at the scene following a brief gun battle.
Before working at the Western Wall, Kay had volunteered in Kibbutz Nirim in southern Israel for a year.
Kay, who lived in the central city of Modiin, served in the Israel Defense Forces as a lone soldier (a term for recruits from foreign countries who move to Israel without family) in the Paratroopers Brigade until August 2019.
He was the first Israeli civilian killed by Palestinian violence since the 11-day conflict in the Gaza Strip this past May.
Four other people were wounded in Sunday’s shooting before officers shot and killed the gunman.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was the “price” for Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.