“For a brother, you do everything:” The speech of the Israel Prize winner

At the Israel Prize ceremony held on the eve of Independence Day in Sderot, the prize was awarded for the first time in a unique category – civil heroism. The prize was awarded to members of the ‘Elhanan crew’ – Menachem Kalmanzon and his nephew Itiel Zohar (son and grandson of Rabbi Benny Kalmanzon, President of the Yeshiva of Otniel), who traveled on October 7 together with Elhanan Kalmanzon (brother of Menachem, and Mossad agent by profession) from their home in the settlement of Otniel to the battlefield in Bari, in order to help the fighting forces and save civilians from the inferno. After a day of fighting and action, Elhanan was killed by terrorist fire, with an estimated 100 civilians being rescued by the crew.

At the ceremony, which was attended by President Herzog, Knesset Speaker Ohana, and Acting President of the Supreme Court Fogelman, Menachem Kalmanzon delivered an exciting speech in memory of his brother and his honor of the event, in which he explained a little about the feelings that had enveloped him since October 7th – about unity with Israel and the love of the brothers. Here are some of his main points:

“We are here at the ceremony that marks the days of the nation of Israel’s independence, which begin from Leil HaSeder through Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. A ceremony that reflects the great spirit in our people, and answers the question of “why” – why we are here. The same question we’re so thirsty for after the hard year we’ve been through. This question resonated throughout the country as the controversy burned and threatened to tear us apart from the inside while quarrels over partitions only created higher partitions. Are we brothers?

…We knew the danger and despite the fear we chose to enter time after time, we did not ask ourselves why we were doing it, the ‘why’ was clear. In the middle of the night, we were already tired, but despite the fear we could not stop… When we got to the Meir family’s house in Bari, Michal refused to open the safe door, she and her sister were too afraid. Michal through the door begged me: “Speak, that we may hear your Hebrew,” and she did not open it until I shouted to her, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” The door opened immediately. I confess, it was not a prayer, it was a cry: “I’m Jewish, I’m here for you, please open the door.”

…We have forgotten that even when these people goes to protests and arguments, it is for the reason that the fate of the only country we have is burning in all of us. We have all been told that we are still in the throes of a brother’s love. And a brother doesn’t break up. A brother does everything for a brother. Like any love for a brother, no matter how much you are asked to explain, it is not always possible to tell what makes your brother so special and why he will never have a substitute, because above all, the love of the brother, is that he is a brother. But when love is still to be explained, all that can be done is to point to the special shades of his personality, which shed light on the question of “why”, why we love our brothers – our people.

…Together we will mourn, and together we will build what was destroyed, and together we will continue the journey of this wonderful people. Gentlemen, you, together with thousands of heroes and unknown doers, tell us who our brothers are, and answer the question of “why.” I’m sorry. We will fight no more without seeing the goodness of this people, for ‘the blood of our brothers cries out to us from the ground’, ‘my brother’s keeper I am’.”

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