Like grandfather, like grandson

This war touches almost every Israeli I know in the closest way possible.

By David Shishkoff | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Family members and friends of late Israeli soldier Arnon Benbenisti Vaspi who was killed in action in Gaza attend his funeral at the Rosh Pina Cemetery on November 21, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90
Family members and friends of late Israeli soldier Arnon Benbenisti Vaspi who was killed in action in Gaza attend his funeral at the Rosh Pina Cemetery on November 21, 2023. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90

It’s forcing us to change and do things we have never done before. And now it’s forcing me to write a eulogy for the first time.

My son was supposed to have written this eulogy. But he is busy in Gaza. One of his best friend’s was in Gaza too, and that’s what leads us here.

Arnon with the horses he loved – Facebook

Arnon Benvenisti was a persistent guy. He persuaded my son to work with him after they both finished their obligatory army service in special units of the Givati Infantry Brigade. Arnon grew up in an Israeli family with a storied past. His maternal grandfather Yoav Vespi died a heroic death as a lieutenant colonel in the first “October War” (The Yom Kippur War – that happened in 1973). Now Arnon has also died a heroic death as a captain in the “second October War” (the one that is happening in 2023). In between, his uncle Arnon Vespi also died on an IDF mission (in the aftermath of the first Lebanon War, in 1983).

Since Arnon and my son were close and worked together for two years, we got to see Arnon many times. And so on November 21st, we found ourselves among the pines and tombstones, along with a thousand others who came to the hillside cemetery in Rosh Pina late in the afternoon to pay homage to Arnon and his family, which has now given three of its best sons, while contemplating the vastness of such loss and sacrifice and devotion. His sister spoke into the microphone at the graveside, asking, “Why,” with such raw honesty I figured she must be a secular atheist, and was surprised to see when I got closer in the crowd, that she is ultra-Orthodox!

Arnon had his challenges growing up. His parents divorced, and then when Arnon was 17-years-old his father passed away. One of the things that helped Arnon overcome childhood challenges was taking care of horses on several ranches here in the Galilee. That’s how he met his intended wife as well. But now we will never be able to go and attend their wedding ceremony.

On Shabbat, October 7th, upon hearing the news of the horrible Hamas invasion and massacre, Arnon was one of the many who dropped everything to drive toward the danger and help in any way they could. Arnon got in his Dodge Ram pickup truck and broke the speed limit driving southward to his base in the Negev Desert. There, Arnon insisted on helping immediately. When it became clear some essential equipment of the unit was on a different base way up north. Arnon summarily drove back northward to retrieve what was needed. After the IDF entered Gaza, he continued to volunteer for dangerous missions. It was on one of those missions in northern Gaza that he joined the fate of his fallen uncle and grandfather, at age 26.

In addition to being an officer and an entrepreneur, Arnon was a great boss. He loved to buy his workers shawarma, and invite them over for barbecue meals at his house. Despite his tenacity in life, in business, and in the army — Arnon had an unexpected, quiet shyness about him.

May his memory be a blessing.

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