Yannai Kaminka z”l is picture in the center of this photo in the black t-shirt and shorts (photo courtesy of Elana Kaminka). 

Standing with Israel – in Memory of Yannai Kaminka z”l

By Myra Clark-Siegel
AJC Westchester/Fairfield Regional Director

Don’t turn the page. Don’t look away. 

I should not be writing this.  

The Hamas monsters who led the horrible terror attack on Israeli babies, children, teens, mothers and fathers, and Holocaust survivors cared about one thing. Killing Jews. 

As news reports broke, with more and more and more updates, we all sat frozen. Incapable of comprehending the horror, the depravity that the Hamas terrorists unleashed on our beloved Israel. 

Every time we thought it couldn’t get worse, a new update. And another and another.

And then Sunday morning, we woke up to a text that we should never have received.

It said that our friend and neighbor’s son, Yannai Kaminka, was killed in action, defending the Israeli communities in Southern Israel on the border with Gaza. He was 20 years old. 

How would we tell our 16-year-old son that his mentor, his Israeli scouts leader in Israel had been killed? No parent should ever have to tell their child that horrible news. No family should ever bear that terrible, unimaginable burden and loss. 

What could we possibly say to Elana and Eyal, Yannai’s parents? And what could we possibly say to Yannai’s siblings, one of whom was a classmate and friend of our son? 

Until his last moment, Yannai was defending his people, the Jewish people, and all Israelis. Israeli soldiers defend us all, in the great tossed salad that is Israel. People from every background, every religion; that is the sacred duty of the IDF: protect its citizens. 

Yannai Kaminka was my son’s leader. He was a role model. Smart, fun, funny, strong, sometimes shy, always there for the kids.  

And so when the awful text came in on Sunday morning, we were shattered.

In the IDF, Yannai gave his heart and soul to his soldiers, didn’t eat or sleep all week to do everything for them, and then he’d come home and sleep for 2 days straight. 

One of Yannai’s squad commanders was hit in the head, but since she was wearing a helmet, she was only injured. Yannai helped evacuate her under fire and took her position. Yannai,  another officer, and two soldiers were then hit by an RPG and killed immediately.

In the photo above, Yannai and some of his soldiers are just normal teenagers doing normal things. Smiling. As Yannai always did. He lit up every space. 

one of the girls is the one he evacuated under fire. She came to his funeral bandaged. Another is in the hospital with serious injuries. The other two in the photo spoke at his funeral. 

This is NOT normal. It can NEVER be normal. They were just teenagers. 

And our teenagers here in Westchester and around the country need to feel safe and strong to be proud Jewish, pro-Israel advocates. 

We are here for them. They are not alone. We are here and we are strong and we are advocates with government officials, diplomats, and interfaith and intergroup leaders. We will never apologize for being strong, for being educated, for being powerful. We learned throughout our collective history what happens without power. 

We will continue to honor Yannai’s memory and the memory of every Israeli and every foreign national killed, wounded, or kidnapped by the evil that is Hamas. 

Am Yisrael Chai. 

Myra Clark-Siegel is AJC Westchester/Fairfield Regional Director. westchester@ajc.org