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A tragedy that strikes us in our heart



In this war against Hamas and all the unadulterated evil it represents, the death of every brave Jewish soldier is a tragedy.

For South African Jewry however, and particularly the innumerable community members whose lives have been meaningfully touched by Rabbi Laurence – known in Israel as Doron – Perez, the loss of Daniel Perez has truly struck us at our very heart.

October 7 was the darkest hour for Israel and the Jewish people in recent memory.

On that terrible morning, both Daniel and his elder brother, Yonatan, found themselves on the frontline, fighting heroically to stem wave upon wave of terrorist attacks aimed at killing every single person in their path.

Yonatan was wounded, while Daniel was among more than 250 taken back to Gaza as hostages. In the belief that he was still alive, extensive efforts were made over the next five months to secure his release.

Literally thousands of people around the world were involved in these efforts. Regardless of the outcome, it gave us a degree of comfort and reassurance, reminding us that for all the evil displayed by Hamas as well as its supporters, there were many more good people actively working on behalf of the victims of their crimes.

In spite of the unimaginable stress they were under, Rabbi Perez and his family continued to inspire us by the example they set, never surrendering to despair, but demonstrating the resilience, positivity, and perhaps above all overriding devotion to providing their fellow Jews with the chizuk and hope that we all so sorely need in these dark times.

The fact that Yonatan and Galya chose to go ahead with their marriage in spite of the dark cloud hanging over them tells its own story.

Until a few days ago, it was believed that Daniel was still alive, and with the remaining hostages, would be able to return home one day. The fact that for more than five months the news of his death on 7 October was purposefully concealed to prolong the pain his loved ones were feeling demonstrates yet again the barbaric nature of the enemy against whom he was fighting, an enemy that has flouted and continues to flout all civilised norms and values in its desire to cause maximum harm to the Jewish people.

Over many years, I have had the inestimable privilege of having Rabbi Perez not just as my rabbi, but as my mentor, confidant and, dare I say it, good and steadfast friend.

I have likewise seen not only the way he and his dear wife, Shelley, have sought to imbue their sons and daughters with the same unstinting Jewish values and loyalties, but the whole-hearted devotion with which their children are carrying on their legacy.

They had big shoes to fill, but fill them they did, and still do.

In the short time we had him among us, Daniel lived those values. However much we join with his family in mourning his tragic loss, we honour him as a brave, devoted young Jewish fighter who died a hero’s death to save his fellow Jews.

His story will be a source of inspiration for our generation and the generations to come.

  • Zev Krengel is the national vice president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

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