Elan Ganeles a”h: An inextinguishable light
I cannot believe that it is 2023 and Jews are still being killed simply because they are Jews. What is wrong with people, with radical Muslims who hate us so much that our lives are valueless for them? I have just come from the funeral of Elan Ganeles, a”h, a former lone soldier who was killed on February 27, in a terrorist attack. Elan was murdered by a man who did not know him, his family, or his friends. He simply killed Elan because he was a Jew and, because he could. His hate allowed him to extinguish this shining soul, a spark of Hashem walking in this world, simply because he hated Elan more than he valued what Hashem created. I cannot wrap my head around this at all. I am searching for answers, and I know that there are none. Not in this world anyway.
I went to the funeral with my daughter, a former lone soldier, because Elan was a former lone soldier, because he was a son of Am Yisrael, because his aunt and uncle daven (pray) at the same shul as my partner and me, and because they welcomed us, not only into their shul, but into their home. They were Elan’s people, and it is from their kindness to us that I see who Elan was – what a loss all Am Yisrael now bears. I learned so much about Elan from the Hespedim (eulogies) that I am so sorry I did not know him in real life. I would have wanted him in my life. But you see, that is what hate has taken away from all of us. A future. A future in which Elan would have married the love of his life, fathered the next generation of Zionist, Torah loving Jews, and contributed to Israel, to her people, and to the world. It is such a monumental loss that it cannot even be quantified. One human being, according to the Talmud, is considered the world entire. That is what was taken.
His murderer took not only a son, brother, cousin, grandson, nephew, and unbelievably loyal friend, from his family and Am Yisrael, he took a man of light from the world. A young man who studied neuroscience, who gave of himself to others, who like Avraham Avinu (Abraham our forefather) opened his home to the stranger. He clearly was the quintessential mensch who would have raised children like his parents raised him – to open their home to others, to be kind to strangers, to accept people as they are and to love their fellow human beings. All of this was taken away by hate. For what reason? Honestly, there are no words and no answers. I can shake my fist at heaven and fill my heart with anger or I can try and be more like Elan. I can, we can, live as he lived, tell others to do the same, love Israel and her people even more, all in Elan’s name. We can all make his memory a blessing in this world. By doing so we are nothing like his murderer, and those who hate us. We become inextinguishable lights onto the world and continue Elan’s trajectory for him. It seems, from all that was said of him, that he would have wanted that for all of those that he left behind.
Why am I writing these words? Who am I to voice this pain that our nation feels? That his family and friends feel? Because he was our son – all of ours. These boys and girls, these lone soldiers, come to this beloved, passionate, and crazy place, often from countries in which life is good and cozy, where they want for nothing. They leave their homes, their families, and their lands, like Avraham and Sarah, and come here to eat dirt, or burnt tuna in a can, sleep on the ground, hope someone brings them a real meal, does their laundry, or takes them home for a Shabbos or a holiday. These are our children. They come because something inside them pulls them here, some force we cannot understand but know exists. It is for sure the pull Elan had. It is the same pull my daughter had in 2019. It is inside their neshamas (souls) and so they served this land and her people.
This force is in our neshamas too, us Olim, and pulls us to make Aliya; we feel it in our bodies and souls. It connects us and leads us to make Israel our home. It is the Vav (the link) as Rabbi Tuvia Brander called it in his Hesped for Elan. Elan clearly had it in his soul when he came to serve this country and then returned to visit, celebrate, and tour in it. He loved this land. And we in turn love him. Our love for him, his family, and Am Yisrael came out today in full force. Thousands of us came to his funeral – many who did not know him or his family. Simply because he was our son; because he gave of himself to each of us when serving, so that we could be free. You see, we have no other land, and because of Elan and others like him, our soldiers, Israel continues to be. We came in full force, for his family, for his friends, because we are nothing like those who hate us. We are filled with love for each other, value life, and when it is extinguished, do not believe in allowing his loved ones to be without the support needed to carry them through this time. This is Israel, this is who we are. It is who we are in our core. It is who we will always be.
May Elan’s memory be for a blessing. May his family find comfort amongst the mourners of Zion and Israel. May they find comfort in the numbers of us who physically came to show them love and support, and to the thousands of others who watched the livestream and were there in spirit. May they know that all of us surely took a piece of Elan home with us today. We too want to be a Vav like Elan A”H in this world, a link to and for each other and to and for all Am Yisrael. We are Elan A”H. Be like Elan A”H. Am Yisrael Chai!