Ben Mizrachi, the Vancouver man killed by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7, is being remembered as a bright, joyful and compassionate young person whose life tragically ended far too soon. He was 22.
“Ben was one of those kids with a big smile and a wonderful heart. He was a centerpiece that made everyone around him smile,” said Russ Klein, head of school at Vancouver’s King David High School, where Mizrachi graduated in 2018.
Mizrachi had been at the Supernova outdoor music festival in southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, early Saturday morning when Hamas attacked. In the panic and chaos that ensued, according to reports, he used his experience as a medic with the Israeli Defense Forces to tend to those who had been injured before himself becoming the victim of violence.
More than 260 people were killed at the concert. Another Canadian, Alexandre Look, 33, of Montreal, was also killed at the music festival.
For the first time in the school’s history, King David broke with its Shabbat and Jewish holiday protocols on Saturday to announce that Mizrachi was missing at the time and to express its shock concerning events in Israel.
News of his death began circulating early Tuesday morning through the social media accounts of King David and Taleeb Noormohamed, a Liberal member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville.
Klein, who described the return to school following the Thanksgiving long weekend as very somber, said teachers and students at the school were devastated by the news of Mizrachi’s death.
Klein said one of his fondest memories was accompanying a King David Grade 8 trip to Israel ten years ago and watching Mizrachi pray at sunrise atop Masada, wearing his Kevin Bieksa Canucks jersey.
Another recollection for Klein was a quote Mizrachi had placed in the school yearbook upon his graduation which read, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
Mizrachi made aliyah in the summer following his high school graduation. In 2019, he was drafted into the IDF—an event, Klein noted, of which Mizrachi was immensely proud.
Itamar Kaufman first met Mizrachi in Israel when they were both 18 and the two quickly became close friends after discovering they had several mutual interests and hobbies. Kaufman recalls Mizrachi always being the first one to volunteer to do anything and always happy when he saw others were happy as well.
“He straight away became part of our Jerusalem group of friends and a regular visitor to all of our homes. He was always the first one to start a dance. He could connect with anyone—no matter what age or background. He was all of our parents’ favorite friend. And was a son every parent could only dream about,” Kaufman said.
Mizrachi also became part of the Kvutzat Yavne kibbutz where, according to Kaufman, he was taken in by a family had who had spent a few years living in Vancouver. This family promised “to be his family in Israel when he came to serve in the paratroopers brigade just as his father had done.”
“As time went by,” Kaufman said, “we all discovered the leader in him—organizing many of our social activities and leading many volunteering activities.”
His military service ended in April 2022 and for the next year he worked in the kibbutz fields and travelled through South America for several months. Before his death, Mizrachi had been working for his uncle’s construction company and had plans to became a real estate developer.
Mizrachi had recently moved into an apartment with both of his sisters who were living in Israel as well.
“He felt it was his duty to give them a home and a sense of family in Israel. This tells you a little bit about the family man he was—a devoted son to his parents and a loving older brother to his sisters and younger brother,” Kaufman said.
Gil Troy, a professor and distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill, who knew Mizrachi while he was in Israel, said, “When you have four children, you end up meeting lots of kids, but not bonding deeply with all of them. But it was impossible not to bond with Ben, who just had an infectious smile and love of life.”
“I remember that year marveling at how Ben loved unleashing his inner Israeli. He loved the camaraderie, the endless schmoozing, the constant barbecuing and he was indeed quite the chef. It’s heartbreaking that his life in Israel, which he loved so much, was cut short so soon – and so cruelly,” Troy said.
On Oct. 10, hundreds of people gathered in Vancouver for a rally to show solidarity with Israel. With news of Mizrachi passing still fresh in their minds, many spoke and shared memories of their friend and highly regarded member of the community.
“When we first heard the shocking news of the Hamas attack, we knew that it was only a matter of time before each of us was personally connected to this tragedy,” Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, told the crowd. “May the memory of Ben and all those lost be a blessing.”
Mizrachi’s parents, Dikla and Etsik, had left for Israel over the Thanksgiving weekend to do what they could to help with the search. When they arrived, they were told that their son was among those killed in the attacks. His funeral was held in Israel on Oct. 11.