Those we have lost

Cpt. Elhanan Kalmanson, 41: Family man who saved dozens of lives

Killed battling Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 8

Capt. (res.) Elhanan Meir Kalmanson (IDF)
Capt. (res.) Elhanan Meir Kalmanson (IDF)

Cpt. (res.) Elhanan Meir Kalmanson, 41, an officer in the Judea and Samaria Division from the West Bank settlement of Otniel, was killed on October 8 battling Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri.

Elhanan and his brother, Menahem, heard on October 7 about the Hamas invasion of southern Israel and set out for the front lines, before they had even been called up to reserve duty. They fought against Hamas terrorists in Be’eri for hours that day, helping to evacuate dozens of survivors, and were later joined by their nephew Itiel.

The next day, while working to clear out any remaining terrorists in Be’eri, they entered one final home and were ambushed by a group of terrorists who shot Elhanan dead.

He was buried on October 12 in Otniel. His wife, Shlomit, survives him, their five children Shai, Tal, Mevaser, Keren and Hod, as well as his parents Benny and Yochi and his siblings.

The group which he led that day in battle, nicknamed “Elhanan’s team,” is being honored with an Israel Prize for “civilian heroism.”

Itiel, who joined his uncles in Be’eri that day, told Globes that the fighting “was insane — volleys of shells from our tanks, their anti-tank missiles, rockets falling, attack helicopters firing, grenades. Usually, you first take out the threat and then evacuate people, but Elhanan was a security guy, he has a lot of experience and he has written combat training guides for local security teams. He understood immediately that the situation was different and we couldn’t wait until the fighting was over.”

In February, Itiel’s firstborn son was born, named for his fallen great-uncle. His uncle had an “entire life of activity, of dedication, of a sense of mission, of building, of unflinching concern for the safety and the life of the people of Israel in its land. I was privileged to learn so much from him, in the 23 years that I was his nephew, and in the final hours I was by his side,” said Itiel at the circumcision. “He is first and foremost a beloved uncle, but also an incredible national and historical figure.”

Several weeks after he was killed, his cousin, Lt. Pedayah Mark, fell while fighting in the Gaza Strip. Pedayah’s father, Elhanan’s uncle, was killed in a terror attack in 2016.

Elhanan, who worked for the Mossad intelligence agency, was also the security chief for Otniel.

“Anyone who knew Elhanan even a little knew that this was the most natural thing in the world, that wherever help was needed, devotion, wherever leadership, thoughtfulness, bravery, wherever there aren’t enough people — Elhanan was there,” his father, Benny, said at his funeral, according to Makor Rishon.

“In our family,” he added, “we laugh about everything — this is well known. I apologize that after seeing the dedication of all those who organized the funeral, I want to say that Elhanan would have done it much better.”

At his funeral, his wife Shlomit recounted “20 years of many shared experiences, challenges, celebrations, conversations, tears.” Only two weeks earlier, she said, they celebrated two decades of being together: “Two weeks ago, 20 years seemed like a lot. Now it seems like so little.”

“I wanted forever with you,” she added. “We dreamed how we would grow old together, and what we would do over the years. We had so many plans for our long lives… You were my rock. You always knew, immediately, what I needed in any situation. You loved the children so much, you were so proud of them… For you, family was the highest value.”

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