A British-born father has paid tribute to his 21-year-old Israeli son who was killed in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip over Shabbat.
Rob Airley, the father of Sergeant Binyamin Meir Airley of the Paratroopers Brigade’s 101st Battalion, was speaking at his funeral on Sunday. Sgt. Airley lived in Beit Shemesh and was one of six children of Rob and his wife, Jen.
Airley was killed after entering a house that was being used by Hamas fighters. The house was blown up by an Israeli tank and Rob said Binyamin had gone in first, thinking – incorrectly – that the Hamas fighters inside would have been killed.
According to Israeli media reports, Airley’s parents made aliyah from the United States in 2006. Binyamin attented yeshiva, spent time in Eilat, and worked on the family’s farm, including most Shabbats.
“He personified modesty,” said Rob. “He would have hated all this, all these people for him. He hated attention. He was loved and respected by everyone who came across him. He was a leader. He always wanted to be at the front.”
Rob said Binyamin was unlike other teenagers in that he shunned smartphones and material possessions, saying: “You’d go into his room and there’d be nothing in there.” Binyamin “hated taking money” from his parents but loved Eretz Israel.
Quoting the late Rabbi Sacks, Rob said he had had “an amazing loving son, my hero… I loved showing him off to friends.” He added that Binjamin was “in an amazing place now. He’s happy. It’s a calamity for us but best thing for him.”
Rob described his son as “a good-looking boy who distanced himself from girls until the time was right,” adding: “If he wanted something, he just went out and got it. I’m glad that, if he had to go, he went in service to this amazing nation. This kid was unbelievable. Every home should have a Binyamin.”
Rob ended by saying that “as an Englishman, I’ve always hated hugs – until yesterday… Since then, every hug has made me feel rejuvenated. We live in an amazing community with strong support for us.”
So far, Israel’s armed forces have released the names of 383 soldiers killed since the war with Hamas began on 7 October.
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