South African Immigrant, 25, Is Victim in Jerusalem Shooting Attack

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Terror attack victim Eliyahu Kay
Terror attack victim Eliyahu KayCredit: Kay's Facebook Profile

A 25-year-old immigrant from South Africa, Eliyahu David Kay, was killed in a terror attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Sunday morning.

Kay, a resident of Jerusalem, was fatally shot by a Palestinian gunman who opened fire at passersby in the Old City.

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The assailant, 42-year-old Fadi Abu Shkhaidem from East Jerusalem, used an automatic weapon to shoot at civilians from short-range, before he was shot dead by security forces.  Four more people were injured in the attack in Jerusalem.

 Kay was born and raised in Johannesburg and moved to Israel on his own in 2017 to volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces, then made aliyah in 2019.  He had been employed as a guide for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in the Old City of Jerusalem. He was shot while heading to prayer at the Western Wall and died of his wounds in Hadassah hospital.

Kay during his IDF serviceCredit: Kay's Facebook Profile

His older and younger brothers also served as “lone soldiers” in the Israeli army. His parents and younger sister came on aliyah last December and moved to the central city of Modi’in. Kay, who was known to family and friends as Eli, was engaged to be married next year. He was the grandson of Rabbi Shlomo Levin, the senior rabbi of South Hampstead United Synagogue in London and a prominent figure in the British Orthodox movement.

“We are absolutely devastated by this news,” said Daniela Shapira, an aliyah consultant for Telfed, an organization that assists South Africans immigrating to Israel.

“It is so heartbreaking that this happened so soon after the family had finally been reunited here in Israel,” she added, noting that she had been in regular contact with each of the sons when they moved to Israel and later their parents.

In a statement, the South African Board of Jewish Deputies said it was “devastated” by the news of his death. “The South African Jewish community is reeling from shock,” the statement said. “Our heartfelt condolences go to his parents Avi and Devora Kay, his fiancée and his family and friends in Israel and South Africa.  May his memory be a blessing.  Baruch Dayan Emet.”

Robbie Hilkowitz, chairman of the board of Telfed, said: “This is terribly sad news, and we are standing by to provide the family with any help that we can.”  

Kay, who served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces, volunteered for Machal, a program that is shorter than the regular army service and designed for soldiers who plan to return to their home countries.  He decided to stay in Israel, however, and officially immigrated in 2019.

During his army service, he lived on Be’erot Yitzhak, a kibbutz in central Israel, and after his discharge, moved to Jerusalem.
“He was a good kid, a really good kid,” said Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, spiritual leader of South Africa’s Small Jewish Communities Association. “And this was a family that everyone in the Jewish community in South Africa knew.” The Kay family, said Silberhaft, has been very active in Chabad in Johannesburg. Devora was a teacher in a religious school, and Avi worked as an insurance agent.

“He worked with great devotion. We offer our deepest condolences to his family,” The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement. 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his condolences to the family of the victim, and praised the work of security personnel who responded to the shooting. He added that this incident is the “second recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem,”  following last week's stabbing attack in the Old City, in which two Border Police officers were wounded. The suspect, a 16-year-old from East Jerusalem, was fatally shot at the scene.

"We strongly condemn the terrorist attack today by a Hamas gunman in Jerusalem’s Old City, which killed one person and injured others. We offer our condolences to the victims and their families," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Kay was the 10th South African immigrant to be killed in a terror attack in Israel since the founding of the state.

In a statement, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shato expressed her condolences and said her staff would do their “utmost” to help the family in their time of need.

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