update deskIsrael at War

French couple make aliyah to honor son who fell in Gaza

Lucien and Marlene Elmkayes have chosen to live in Jerusalem “to ensure that the light of our son’s life will continue to shine despite his death.”

From left: Lucien and Marlene Elmkayes, with their son Binyamin, who was killed in action in Gaza on Nov. 8, 2023, at age 29. Credit: Courtesy.
From left: Lucien and Marlene Elmkayes, with their son Binyamin, who was killed in action in Gaza on Nov. 8, 2023, at age 29. Credit: Courtesy.

The Elmkayes family arrived in Israel from France this week, making aliyah in honor of their son Binyamin, who fell battling Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

The family moved with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ); the Jewish Agency for Israel; and the Israel Ministry for Aliyah and Integration.

They have chosen to live in Jerusalem “as a way to ensure that the light of our son’s life will continue to shine despite his death,” according to the family.

Binyamin Elmkayes moved to Israel at the age of 15 and later joined the Israel Defense Forces. After Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, he immediately reported for reserve duty in the IDF Engineering Corps. 

He was killed in action on Nov. 8 at the age of 29, the youngest of Marlene and Lucien’s six children.

“He was always very close with me and the whole family. He was well known within his army unit as someone who truly loved his land, and was always there to listen to others and help wherever possible,” said Marlene.

Binyamin Elmkayes. Credit: Courtesy.

Binyamin was to have been married in November, but the event was postponed because of the war.

His parents were in Israel when he was killed, having seen him just days before. A food package that his mother had prepared for him was found among his belongings after his death.

“Just before we heard the news, I had the worst feeling that something terrible had happened. At 8 o’clock that evening the IDF representatives came to my sister’s home in Netanya. I heard her scream, and I immediately knew,” said Marlene.

After the mourning period, the family returned to France, but in their hearts, they knew that the time had come to make aliyah.

“It was Binyamin’s dream that we would all live together here in Israel, so we knew that the right thing to do was to make that dream into a reality as soon as possible. We know that living in Israel will ensure that his memory stays with us in a very real way,” said Lucien.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer said that the parents of “Binyamin, who made aliyah alone to enlist and defend the homeland and fell in battle, continue their heroic son’s path. A few months ago, I met Marlene and Lucien at an aliyah fair in Paris and was moved to tears when they told me they were making aliyah, and I am glad [they are]. We will work to assist them in every way necessary to ensure they integrate in the best possible manner.”

IFCJ president Yael Eckstein called it “a truly bittersweet moment to witness.”

“We know that this is a family whose personal dreams of moving to Israel are finally coming true … yet they are doing so in such a painful manner,” she said. “Especially now, we realize how every Jew who comes home to Israel during these difficult times is proclaiming the most potent message that the Jewish people are alive and will not be defeated.”

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