Parents of Hamas terror victim spread his message of love to young London audiences

Devorah and Avi Kay say their son Eli 'loved and respected every person who lived in Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike'


The parents of a Jerusalem tour guide murdered by Hamas last year have been in London this week spreading their son’s message of love, humanity and support for Israel.

South African-born Eli Kay, 26, was walking to work in the Old City last November when he was fatally shot by a terrorist.

Eli had enrolled in a Hebrew-speaking yeshivah before serving in the IDF, where he was promoted to senior rank. After working in agriculture, he completed a tour guide course, leading to his job at the Kotel.

“One of the unique characteristics of Eli is that he respected every person for who that person was,” his father Avi told the JC this week in between speaking engagements at schools and young United Synagogue gatherings.

“Eli loved and respected every person who lived in Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, even though he was not naive to the fact that it is a Jewish state and it needs to be defended and that our enemies are real and tangible.”

Travelling to Israel as a teenager had been a “watershed moment” in Eli’s life, his mother, Devorah, added.

He could have pursued a comfortable existence in South Africa but “he chose to be a pioneer; he lived his life as a pioneer”.

Avi Kay recalled that his son bought his coffee from an Arab vendor who he called a “great guy”. And when someone berated him for befriending an Arab cleaner, Eli responded that he could not see the issue with a Jew and Arab of the same age getting along.

“That was Eli. He didn’t see colour, he didn’t see religion. He just saw people for who they are.”

While living on a kibbutz along the border with Gaza, Eli also became friends with a sheikh, visiting his tent to learn Arabic.

Now living in Israel, the Kays want to spread the values exemplified by their son.

“We need to be outside of Israel for [Yom] Hazikaron,” Mrs Kay said. “We need to do this. We need to go and tell people we’re not going to be a victim of terror.

“We’ve been given the status but we’re choosing what we’re going to do with the status.

“Unfortunately we can’t change what has happened but we can change where we are going with this.”

She added that there were choices in life. “Are we just going to sit by and be a victim? Or are we going to continue to work in the land of Israel in a way that can be positive that can have an impact on people?”

The Kays have received a warm welcome as they discussed their son’s values and legacy at United Synagogue youth division Tribe and various other venues.

“We have been told over and over again that people have shared our grief from day one,” Mrs Kay said. “People have mourned with us, communities have mourned with us, certain schools have mourned with us.”

The family will also be launching a Sefer Torah small enough to fit into a backpack so observant Jews travelling around Israel can worship.

“That was Eli’s passion,” Mrs Kay said. “To travel the land, to live in the land, to learn the Torah and to be a Jew in the land… Eli was a leader, not just a follower.”

Beyond that, the Kays hope to create a new settlement in the Negev in Eli’s name to ensure his memory lives on.

It would be “a place where people can come and live from all over the world that is accepting of all people”, Mr Kay explained.

“We can create a new hub and a new milieu for people to come and live where we can generate a culture of acceptance and understanding and really add to the culture of the country.”

Rabbi Eli Levin, the Tribe minister and Eli’s uncle, said: “Eli Kay’s story is relevant and meaningful for anyone who hears it. Facilitated by Tribe and Young US, this trip has given communities, schools and young professionals the opportunity to reflect on Eli’s journey as a link to the many others whose lives we think about and learn from on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.”

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