Those we have lost

Eli and Arye Uzan, 68 & 42: Father and son slain during fishing trip

Murdered by Hamas terrorists on Zikim Beach on October 7

Aryeh (left) and Eli Uzan (Courtesy)
Aryeh (left) and Eli Uzan (Courtesy)

Arye Uzan, 68, and his son Eli Uzan, 42 of Moshav Gilat were murdered by Hamas gunmen along Zikim Beach on October 7.

The father and son had arrived at Zikim Beach — one of the more pastoral, beautiful beaches in Israel — in the early hours of that Saturday to go fishing.

Eli’s sister, Yehudit, said that the two went fishing almost every weekend, sometimes at Zikim, sometimes further north in Ashkelon or Nitzanim. She said that at 6:40am on October 7, her mother spoke to Eli and Arye and they said they were taking shelter in a beachside bunker as an intense barrage of rockets blanketed southern Israel.

“They said that they would wait for the barrage to stop and then they would return and not to worry,” Yehudit said.

Eli was a chef at the Salon Yevani restaurant at the West Hotel in Ashdod and Arye worked as a security officer for the Segev Shalom Regional Council. Yehudit said that a resident of the council, Arye’s assistant, Basem, told her that he spoke to Arye while he hid in the bunker and told him about the heavy barrage hitting the Bedouin communities in the region. Arye told him to hold tight and gave him instructions on what to do until he could make it there to help out. The phone call was suddenly cut short, and that was the last time Arye was heard from.

The family did not learn of the fate of Arye and Eli until two weeks later, when their remains were discovered and identified. More than 35 Israelis — civilians and soldiers alike — were killed in the Zikim massacre.

Both father and son were laid to rest at the Moshav Gilat cemetery on October 22.

Eli or “Eliko,” was beloved by his co-workers at the Salon Yevani. Owner and chef Guy Peretz told Haaretz that Eli “was my right-hand man for almost 20 years. He was more than a brother to me. A precious and rare man, beloved and special, the type you meet once in your life.”

On Facebook, Peretz wrote that when he found out that Eli had gone missing from Zikim Beach, “I was sure that — knowing you — you were palling around with the abductors, speaking to them in Arabic and cooking them food and waiting to return home. I never dreamed you would never be with us again.”

Eli is survived by his wife Limor, and their 12-year-old daughter Lihi. On the day of the funeral, the Salon Yevani issed a statement reading: “Eli was loved by everyone, a man of good deeds, always smiling, a remarkable colleague and companion, and a talented and humane manager. We will all miss him.”

Aryeh Uzan was a father of three, married to Yafah, his widow. On an online memorial site, people who knew him over the years wrote of a kind, caring, man who was always willing to lend a hand.

Ariel Lamdani wrote: “Dear Aryeh, I met you through your work in Segev Shalom. You were always ready to help out in tasks for the residents. I was honored to work with you and know you.”

Shosh wrote “I had the privilege to work with you. A real, noble gentleman.”

His granddaughter, Lihi wrote of her grandfather, “You were a strong man, a fighter” but that it wasn’t enough and he was still murdered. In disbelief, she wrote, “Who would believe that you of all people grandpa? Who would believe that this strong, heroic man would be murdered? I hope you protect us from up above, from heaven. I love you, grandpa.”

Channel 12 news reported that when Hamas terrorists threw grenades into the bunker, Eli twice grabbed grenades and threw them back out at the Hamas gunmen. But he didn’t manage to throw out the third grenade. After it detonated, the gunmen charged into the bunker and shot everyone inside.

Lihi wrote online that a survivor of the attack told her of her father’s heroism, and that he used his own body to shield the people with him.

In an Instagram post, Lihi said her father — “my best friend and my angel” — didn’t hesitate to put his own life on the line to save the strangers who took shelter with him in the bunker.

“My angel, you didn’t think twice you just jumped on the grenade and saved the people with you in the bunker. You are my hero, all of our hero.”

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