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SAZF honours hero who fought to the death



The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) sends its deepest condolences to the Perez family on the loss of their hero son, Daniel, who fell in battle on 7 October 2023. This is a loss that we in South Africa feel particularly deeply because the Perez family were prominent and much-loved members of our community before making aliya.

Daniel was born here, and celebrated his Barmitzvah at Yeshiva College, where his parents, Rabbi Doron and Shelley Perez, did so much good work.

The death of a beloved child and family member is always devastating, but the circumstances surrounding Daniel’s death amplified the pain. His death on 7 October was confirmed only recently because, as is now clear, Hamas carried his body back into Gaza on that day, where it remains. This act of unfathomable cruelty sentenced his family and friends to months of agony, hoping against hope for his survival, a hope now dashed.

Hamas’s actions, designed to inflict the maximum emotional trauma on Jews around the world and on the fallen hero’s family in particular, are yet another example of the evil that Israel is combatting. Over this period of uncertainty, the entire South African Jewish community and communities worldwide have been united in praying and doing mitzvot for a positive outcome. Now that the worst is known, we’ll continue to keep the Perez family in our hearts.

At this time of Israel’s great need, men and women like Daniel have shown what heroes are. As commander of a tank division at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Daniel and his team put their lives on the line to prevent a massacre at the kibbutz and to prevent terrorists from penetrating further into Israel. For his courage, he paid the ultimate price. Israelis and Jews around the world have an immense debt of gratitude to these modern-day heroes for their willingness to defend our state and our people.

Daniel has been hailed as a hero in Israel. It was heartwarming to see the community of Yad Binyamin. On the day of his funeral, hundreds went out to the streets waving Israeli flags as a sign of respect for the hero and his family.

Naftali Bennett, the former prime minister of Israel, said Daniel and the other tank warriors including Itai Chen and other team members, “repelled swarms of terrorists who penetrated the border fence on their way to murder. Daniel and his team strove for contact because they knew that any terrorist who wasn’t eliminated would continue on a killing spree. They, along with other heroes, managed to prevent a terrible massacre in Kibbutz Nahal Oz and to prevent more crowds of terrorists from reaching Kibbutz Sa’ad, Kfar Aza, and the main road.

“Daniel was hurt, and continued to fight while losing blood. He fought until the blood ran out of his body and he died. The late Daniel Perez will be recorded as one of the greatest heroes who rose up for the people of Israel. The entire nation of Israel bows its head in memory of Israel’s hero.”

Daniel’s brother, Yonatan, a paratrooper, also fought a heroic battle at the Nahal Oz base until he was wounded. He and his soldiers managed to save dozens of people. He was married shortly after the massacre without his brother at his side.

The SAZF calls on the South African community and the global community to recognise the existential battle Israel is fighting and the toll it’s taking. In particular, we call out the hypocrisy of those who are calling for a ceasefire without calling for the release of all the hostages and the return of the bodies of the fallen that are being kept in Gaza.

May Daniel’s memory be a blessing and inspiration for us all.

  • Rowan Polovin is the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation.

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