The parents of Elan Ganeles, an American-Israeli citizen killed in a terrorist attack near the Dead Sea, will bury their son in Israel rather than their hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut.
Ganeles, 26, who was visiting Israel to attend a friend’s wedding, had served in the IDF as a computer programmer before returning to the United States to earn his university degree.
He was shot to death on Monday while driving near the West Bank city of Jericho amid an outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the territory. He was traveling to another wedding at the time of the attack.
Yona Friedman told the Ynet news site that Ganeles’s family “were really struggling at the moment.”
“His parents are very special people. To see them in so much pain really hurts us,” said Friedman, a family friend.
During his IDF service, Ganeles often stayed at Friedman’s sister’s house in Ra’anana, where he became “like a family member.”
As such, he will be buried in Ra’anana’s Klausner cemetery at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
“He felt at home in Israel,” Friedman said. “His love for Israel goes without saying — enlisting as a lone soldier is not something common in his community. It’s a testament to the strong connection he had for the country he loved so much, where in the end he will be buried.”
According to Noam Landau, a friend of the victim, Ganeles was planning to return to Israel to settle in the near future.
“He felt really good in Israel. He was surrounded by so many friends, and he was the glue that held his social group together,” Landau told Ynet.
Ganeles’s former roommate at New York’s Columbia University, Mark Cohen, remembered his friend as “one of the best people I’ve met in my life.”
“He would just stand there, smile and say ‘What are you yelling about? Everything will be okay, we’ll sort it all out,'” Cohen said.
Cohen recounted an early conversation with Ganeles after they had moved into an apartment together.
“When we entered the room, we knew each other a little bit but not well. He looked at me and said, ‘Okay, just so you know, now that we’re friends, we’re friends forever, for eternity. You can’t get rid of me, there’s nothing you can do. You’re stuck with me for your entire life.'”
Cohen said that even on their college campus, which he said could be a “tense” place, “he would try and make peace” between students.
According to Cohen, Ganeles would cook a large soup every week and invite everyone over to their apartment.
“Everyone was invited,” Cohen emphasized.
Ganeles was raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, where his family belonged to the Young Israel of West Hartford synagogue, and he attended Modern Orthodox schools.
He was killed on Monday when gunmen opened fire at his car on the Route 90 highway, close to Nevo military base. The terrorists then continued driving and opened fire at another car near Beit Ha’arava Junction, then shot at a third car nearby, the IDF said.
The terror cell is still being pursued by IDF forces.
Ganeles was killed a day after two Israeli brothers were shot to death in a similar attack in the West Bank, which was followed by a rampage by settlers in the Palestinian village of Huwara during which a Palestinian man was killed.
In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts and troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.