Bnaya Sarel

Fallen Israeli soldier's family surprised with synagogue in son's honor

Local contractor was moved by story of Major Bnaya Sarel, who was killed in 2014 Gaza War, and decided to fund project to commemorate fallen soldier; 'it was very moving, just to see the people of Israel at their best,' says Sarel’s father

Matan Tzuri, Attila Somfalvi, Alexandra Lukash |
Published: 09.22.22, 20:01
When Rabbi Shalom and Michal Sarel, the parents of Major Bnaya Sarel who was killed in the 2014 Gaza War, were invited to a memorial event in the southern city of Sderot this week, they had no idea that what actually awaited them was the inauguration of a new synagogue named after their son.
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  • The story behind the donation that led to the establishment of the synagogue is a heartwarming tale of Israeli good-heartedness.
    4 View gallery
    התמונה של בניה שראל ז"ל שהובילה לתרומה
    התמונה של בניה שראל ז"ל שהובילה לתרומה
    Bnaya Sarel
    (Photo: Courtesy of the Sarel family)
    "It was a complete surprise," said Rabbi Shalom Sarel. "We didn't really know what to expect when we were invited to Sderot. We understood it had to do with commemoration, but we didn't understand the magnitude of it. We met the contractor [whose donation helped fund the synagogue's construction] and city hall staff, fantastic people, the salt of the Earth. It was very moving. Just seeing the people of Israel at their best."
    The story of Mishkan Bnaya Synagogue started in 2018, four years after Bnaya Sarel was killed in combat. Eyal Mesika, a well-known construction contractor from the southern city Netivot, stumbled upon a newspaper article about Sarel in which he was photographed holding a child up on his shoulders. Mesika assumed the child was Sarel's son and decided to grant the child an apartment in a building he built in Sderot.
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    אירוע חנוכת בית הכנסת "משכן בניה" בשדרות
    אירוע חנוכת בית הכנסת "משכן בניה" בשדרות
    Inauguration of the Mishkan Bnaya synagogue
    (Photo: Courtesy of the Sarel family)
    When he reached out to Sarel's family, he realized that the child was not his orphaned son. In fact, Sarel died before he had the chance to marry or have any children.
    "After it became clear to him that he was wrong and that it was actually the son of Bnaya's friend," explained Bnaya's father. "Contrary to what any ordinary person might have done in such a situation, he decided to see through his altruistic motive nonetheless. Mesika took the payment he received for the apartment, and donated that money to honor Bnaya's memory."
    Mesika preferred not to be interviewed for the story.
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    בית הכנסת "משכן בניה"
    בית הכנסת "משכן בניה"
    Mishkan Bnaya Synagogue
    (Photo: Courtesy of the Sarel family)
    "As parents, as a family, we understood that after Bnaya's death that there is a very deep meaning to death: A person lives and creates more events and situations around them, and when life is cut short, there's nothing more left," said Rabbi Sarel. "Therefore, when what a person did in life manages to live on after their death… it's very heartwarming to us."
    "This synagogue - that is now used as an anchor for a living, breathing, and expanding warm community - is actually Bnaya's eternal legacy. It's taking his memory and continuing it."
    Bnaya Sarel was killed at the end of the 2014 Gaza War during an incident in which two other IDF soldiers were killed - Liel Gideoni and Hadar Goldin. Goldin's body is still held by Gaza rulers Hamas.
    4 View gallery
    רוקדים באירוע חנוכת בית הכנסת
    רוקדים באירוע חנוכת בית הכנסת
    Inauguration of the Mishkan Bnaya Synagogue
    (Photo: Courtesy of the Sarel family)
    The synagogue was inaugurated on Tuesday, in the presence of Sarel's family, municipality officials, and IDF soldiers from his unit.
    "I'm proud of the dear neighborhood residents that show wonderful unity and incredible communal spirit," said Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi.
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