For Canadian immigrants to Israel who knew Yoni Kaplan’s grandfather, hearing about the young IDF soldier’s work in Sderot to protect Israeli civilians is bittersweet.

Yoni Kaplan, 20, a member of the Israeli Air Force, is this week’s choice for Faces of Israel.

Yoni was helping to set up Iron Dome (air defense) stations throughout the country before deciding to become an army medic. He was stationed recently in Sderot, a small city well-known for years as a popular target for terrorists firing rockets into southern Israel.

His grandfather, the late Izzy Kaplan, who passed away in March 2010 at the age of 63 following a brief illness, had worked passionately – some would say obsessively – on behalf of the Jewish state, where he was hoping to settle one day with his family. Advocating to protect Sderot was high on the agenda.

In fact, he had encouraged his good friend Alon Davidi, now mayor of Sderot, to seek the mayorship for the good of the residents.

“Izzy was like a father to me,” Davidi had often said.

Thus the recent holiday of Purim became a highly emotional day for the younger Kaplan, who happened to be stationed in Sderot, helping to set up the Iron Dome, when Davidi, accompanied by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, visited the soldiers, bringing them holiday treats.

“Davidi immediately recognized me,” Yoni told United with Israel. “The fact that my grandfather worked so hard to do everything he could to protect the city and I happened to be there now to do the same thing was very moving.”

The intensity of that feeling was heightened by the fact that it was so close to his grandfather’s yahrzeit – anniversary of the day of his death, according to the Hebrew calendar – Yoni added.

The Kaplan Family: All Exemplary Faces of Israel

Yoni, his parents and three siblings made aliyah (immigration to Israel) in 2009, when he was still in high school. Like others who move to a new country in their teen years, it was a challenging experience, especially when having to adjust to a new language and culture. But he is happy that he did it and thrilled to have the privilege to serve his beloved country.

His grandfather’s activism was not limited to politics. He also helped everyday people; for example, during the Second Intifada, he used his business acumen to organize opportunities for Israeli shop owners on deserted streets to sell their wares at a temporary “Israel Mall” that he had set up in Toronto.

So while Yoni’s contribution is a source of pride to former Torontonians and others who knew Izzy – in particular, his wife Susie, who also made her home in Israel and had always been a strong force behind his work – we all wish that Izzy were here to see not only Yoni, but all of his children and grandchildren who are living and thriving in the Jewish state and contributing to its future while remembering his example. He is certainly here in spirit.

Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Apr. 1, 2014

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