Published October 10, 2023

Two Canadians killed by Hamas in Israel remembered as proud and loving

By Morgan Lowie and Nono Shen in Vancouver

Two Canadians killed by Hamas gunmen while attending a music festival in southern Israel over the weekend are being remembered as generous, kind and those who brought love to the world.

Friends and family have confirmed 22-year-old Ben Mizrachi from Vancouver and former Montreal resident Alexandre Look, who recently celebrated his 33rd birthday, were two of the hundreds killed when gunman swarmed the music event on Saturday.

Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, said Tuesday that he was "emotionally numb" upon hearing about the killing of Mizrachi.

“I am absolutely on the brink of if somebody pushes me a little bit, I'll just start crying,” said Shanken. “And so, it really is a tragic time for our community.”

Shanken said he sat with Mizrachi's family on the weekend as they hoped their son could be found alive after word he was missing.

When the family arrived in Israel, they were told Mizrachi was among those killed, he said.

"There are many, many people across the world hurting at this moment because this young man who brought joy and love to this world is gone," said Shanken.

Look's friend, Lior Horovitz, described him as a “once-in-a-lifetime person” who became more like family during their five-year friendship.

In a phone interview from a town outside Tel Aviv, she said she and her boyfriend met Look in Mexico, where he moved from Montreal several years ago. They became fast friends, and would organize their vacations to meet up, either in Mexico or Israel.

He was a proud Jewish Canadian, and a generous person who would do anything for his friends, she said.

“He's a person who loves people,” she said. “He's the guy that's always going to help others, especially if they are Jewish.”

Mizrachi and Look are among the at least 1,800 people killed in the Israel-Palestinian war set off Saturday as Hamas militants moved into Israel. The music festival was attended by thousands of people in the desert near Gaza and was one of many areas gunmen focused on during the initial attack.

The death toll is expected to rise as Israel pummels the Gaza Strip with airstrikes. Numerous foreign governments, including Canada, are trying to determine how many of its citizens are among the dead or missing.

A statement from Russ Klein, the head of the King David High School in Vancouver, said Mizrachi was larger than life with a big personality while he attended the school.

Klein said Mizrachi was as “good a human being as you could want as your friend, simply the best young man you could know.

"He was full of joy, had a smile for everyone and was always there to help. Ben was a friend to everyone and was so proud of his service in the (Israeli Defence Forces)."

He said one of his fondest memories of being with Mizrachi was on the school's Grade 8 trip to Israel a decade ago.

Klein said he recalls watching Mizrachi pray atop the ancient fortress of Masada in Israel while wearing his Kevin Bieksa Vancouver Canucks' hockey jersey.

Hilit Nurick, a home economics teacher at the school, remembered Mizrachi as a “kind, wonderful, and community-minded” young man who had a positive influence on everyone around him.

Nurick said she and Mizrachi once put a large event together for more than 100 people at school.

“He was in charge of making Moroccan-style spicy fish stew. He brought his mother’s recipe and shared it with everyone and taught us how to make it,” said Nurick. “He was incredible, just an incredible human being.”

Shaken said Mizrachi was about to start university in Israel after serving in the country's defence forces.

He said his organization has launched an emergency campaign to send financial support to Israel where people are experiencing "unspeaking pain."

"It is a tragedy of proportions that we have not experienced since the Holocaust," he said of the attack by Hamas.

A funeral for Mizrachi will take place Wednesday in Israel.

Horovitz said on Tuesday that Look invited her and her boyfriend to go to the festival, but they decided to stay home.

She said she had received messages from people who were with Look during the shooting, who told her he’d used his body to block the doorway of a building where people were trying to hide.

She says it doesn’t surprise her that he’d put himself at risk to save people.

"This is what he is: putting others in front of himself."

In Montreal on Tuesday, Look was on the minds of some who gathered for a solidarity rally in front of the building housing the Israeli consulate.

Lauren Lieberman attended the gathering and said her childhood friend needs to be remembered as a hero for his actions.

“We were troublemakers together, but he always had the biggest heart and he would do anything for anyone,” she said at the gathering.

Another childhood friend, Jess Abezis, remembers Look as a “funny guy” who loved the spotlight.

As a kid, he was a messy eater who left a ring of crumbs around himself just to make people laugh, Abezis said in a phone interview.

He spoke with Look's father, who broke down over the phone when he confirmed his son's death.

“There's nothing really to describe the sound of a man crying like that,” he said.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said in a statement that the federal government has failed to provide timely assistance to Canadians needing help to leave Israel, while he urged the prime minister to take immediate action.

“Other countries like Mexico, Brazil and Poland have sent aircraft to evacuate their citizens who want to leave. Canada has not,” Chong said in the statement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Tuesday the government is planning to airlift Canadian citizens, permanent residents, their spouses and their children out of Tel Aviv in the coming days with help from Canadian Armed Forces.

Global Affairs Canada said they are aware of one confirmed death of a Canadian and reports of a second death as well as three other Canadians who are still missing.

Global Affairs said there are more than 3,234 Canadians registered as in Israel and 478 in the Palestinian territories.

— With files from The Associated Press.  

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, South First Responders

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 10, 2023.

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