Civilians who saved over 100 lives, battled Hamas terrorists to be awarded Israel Prize

Elchanan and Menachem Kalmanson and their nephew Itiel Zohar entered Kibbutz Be’eri repeatedly to save over a hundred lives on October 7.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israel Prize for civilian heroism will be awarded to a threesome who called themselves after the fact “Team Elchanan,” for their actions in saving over a hundred lives on October 7, Education Minister Yoav Kisch announced Tuesday.

“I had the honor to speak this morning with the family members of Menachem Kalmanson and Itiel Zohar and inform them of the award,” Kisch said. “I thanked them for their wonderful family and impressive heroes who are a beacon of heroism for all of us and a source of unity and national pride.

“We are a nation of heroes,” he continued. “The winners are part of a long line of heroes who risked their lives for the sake of the people and the homeland and we should never forget that.”

Brothers Elchanan and Menachem Kalmanson and their nephew Itiel jumped into a car from their homes in Otniel on the morning of the Hamas invasion after Elchanan got word of what was happening on the Gazan border due to his position as the village’s security head.

It didn’t matter to the father of five that it was the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah and the religious community was in the middle of prayers.

They drove nearly 80 kilometers (50 miles) to Kibbutz Be’eri, where IDF forces had already begun battling with the dozens upon dozens of Hamas terrorists who had taken over the kibbutz.

The trio took an armored truck and began going house to house to find residents to rescue. In many cases, they first killed terrorists they found inside the homes. In other places, they saved families as their houses were burning down around them.

Stuffing 10-12 people into a space meant for four, they would speed out of the kibbutz to safety, and then return for more. They did this for 14 hours, convincing terrified people that they were not terrorists and could come out of their safe rooms by reciting the Shema prayer and singing Jewish holiday songs.

The brothers were finally shot and wounded when they entered a dark house where a terrorist ambushed them in the early morning of October 8. Elchanan died in Menachem’s arms.

His grave is the first in Israeli history to be engraved with the insignia of the IDF and the Mossad security service, as he had served both for years with honor.

The Israel Prize is usually bestowed in an Independence Day ceremony on exceptional citizens in such categories as the sciences, Jewish studies, culture, and lifetime achievement.

Last month, the government decided that for 2024, six people would be honored in two different categories, both connected to the ongoing war sparked by the Hamas massacre of 1,200 people during their surprise invasion of Israel: “Societal Responsibility” for civil efforts and volunteering, and “Civilian Heroism” for civilian acts of courage.