A Hero’s Final Stand: The Story of Elchanan Kalmanson

May 31, 2024

What drives an ordinary person to confront danger and risk everything to save others? This question finds a poignant answer in the story of Elchanan Kalmanson, a father of five who exemplified the essence of heroism during the battle for Be’eri on October 7th.

Leviticus 19:16 commands:

According to the sages, this verse means that one is obligated to help others in mortal danger and must not stand idly by while someone’s blood is being shed. Similarly, King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 24:11:

According to the Medieval biblical commentator Rashi, this verse warns against becoming lax when witnessing someone in trouble, watching from afar instead of rescuing your friend as he is being taken out to be killed.

As news of the Hamas invasion of southern Israel spread, Elchanan, head of security in Otniel and a veteran of the Israeli security services, quickly recognized the gravity of the situation. In the spirit of these biblical mandates, he made the resolute decision to act.

Gathering his brother Menachem and nephew Itiel, Elchanan set out for the Gaza border, fully aware of the perils that lay ahead. The trio arrived at Kibbutz Be’eri, a scene of chaos and devastation, where residents were under siege by hundreds of terrorists. Echoing the courage of Joshua, who was commanded, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9), Elchanan and his team plunged into the heart of the conflict.

The situation in Be’eri was dire. The peaceful kibbutz was transformed into a battlefield, with homes ablaze and the air filled with the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Special forces were on the scene, but the scale of the attack required immediate, decisive action. Elchanan’s extensive training in anti-terror security operations proved invaluable as he and his team went house to house, rescuing residents.

For 14 harrowing hours, Elchanan, Menachem, and Itiel worked tirelessly, saving over 100 people. Their actions embodied the biblical call to justice and protection:

They faced every conceivable scenario, but Elchanan’s commitment to saving lives, regardless of the risk, was unwavering.

In many cases, the team had to neutralize terrorists before they could safely evacuate residents. They reassured terrified families hiding in safe rooms that they were Israelis coming to save them and not terrorists, often reciting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) to prove their Israeli identity. These words became a lifeline for those they sought to save.

Elchanan’s bravery was ultimately met with tragedy. As he and Menachem entered a darkened house, they were ambushed. Elchanan was mortally wounded, dying in his brother’s arms. His sacrifice, alongside 85 residents of Be’eri and 26 policemen and soldiers, marked a profound act of heroism.

The story of Elchanan Kalmanson is not just one of individual bravery but also a testament to the collective spirit of heroism that emerged on October 7th. In the face of unprecedented danger, ordinary citizens like Elchanan rose to the occasion, driven by a deep sense of duty and love for their fellow Israelis.

Elchanan’s journey from Otniel to Be’eri, bridging ideological divides and uniting different segments of Israeli society, underscores a fundamental truth: in times of crisis, the bonds of shared humanity and faith transcend all divisions. His actions on that fateful day continue to inspire and remind us of the power of courage, selflessness, and unity.

In honoring Elchanan Kalmanson’s legacy, we remember not only his heroism but also the enduring values that guided him—justice, compassion, and unwavering faith. His story is a testament to the enduring spirit of heroism that continues to light the way in times of darkness.

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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