At an emotionally fraught service at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, friends, family, government ministers and senior rabbinic leaders all lauded the accomplishments and character of Eli Kay, the dynamic and charismatic young man who was slain in a terrorist attack in the capital on Sunday.
Thousands of mourners flocked to the funeral to pay their respects to Kay, who made aliyah by himself and enlisted to the IDF to a combat unit in the Paratroopers Brigade, worked the land on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and more recently worked as a tour guide at the Western Wall.
Those present sang together songs of consolation and encouragement for Kay’s family with a fierce intensity, and perhaps for themselves as well, before falling into silence as Kay’s body, shrouded in a tallit, was brought into the eulogy hall.
Several dignitaries were present at the funeral, including Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, Chief Rabbi David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern and chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel.
Speaking at the service, Kay’s brother Katriel insisted that those in attendance not be aggrieved for him but rather find a way to turn the calamity of his death into an event that strengthens the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
“We should not be sad for Eli. When we put him in he will be at peace… He was a bit of a nomad, went all over the place – now his time has come to rest,” his brother said.
“We are all here sad, crying, but I know that we need to ask ourselves what will change in our lives now. What can we do so that the memory of our brother will be eternalized... so that for the rest of our lives we will perpetuate what Eli stood for.
“Every person has their own mission and Eli would want that everyone give the best of their ability in whatever way works for them to protect the Jewish people and advance our country.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai spoke on behalf of the government and praised Kay for his great devotion and dedication to the country and the Jewish people.
“We are parting today from a paratrooper, from a fighter, from a yeshiva student, from an Israeli citizen who fulfilled his desires in the Land of Israel in which he fell. May God avenge his blood,” said Shai.
“Eli’s story is the story of Israel at its best. To love the land, to come to it, to give everything for it,” he said.
“Look Eli, how many people have come to part from you, many who never knew you. Many heard about you just yesterday and decided they want to be with you today to part from you,” continued the minister.
He added that the country promised to bring murderers like Kay’s to justice and to uproot terrorism.
“This terrorism does not deter and will not deter anyone. Just as it did not prevent you and your family from coming to Israel, it will not deter anyone from living here and building their family and future here,” Shai said.
“Israel promises you and all of us that we will continue to build a special, prosperous, successful and safe country here.”
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol, a friend of the family who knew Kay well also gave an address, although he stated specifically that it was not a eulogy since the family had requested that speakers give words of encouragement and not eulogies at the ceremony.
“Eli, you lived a life of mission, of ideals.... You planned to build a home and family in the near future. Eli, you were holy in your death, you were on your way to the Western Wall,” the rabbi said.
“Eli, you were so beautiful, outwardly as well. You were someone who was warm to everyone. You searched for truth, you did good for the Jewish people. You always thought about how you could contribute the roots you received from your family.”
Hagoel described Kay as embodying “the essence of the story of the Jewish people.”
“You loved the nation, the land; [you were] a combination of yearning, longing and fulfillment,” he said. “There are few people who one can point at and say ‘This is Judaism, this is Zionism.... You combined Torah study with working the land. You enlisted to serve in a combat unit.... The Zionism that flowed in your veins will continue to accompany us.”