Hebron mourns massacre survivor and IDF veteran Avraham Kiryati

The 102-year-old lived a storied life through Jewish history's most pivotal moments.

24.1.23, 15:48
The Jewish community of Hebron mourns the passing of Avraham Kiryati who passed away on January 22, 2023 at the age of 102. He was a survivor of the 1929 Hebron massacre, veteran of the Haganah, IDF veteran of multiple Israeli wars, and long-time lawyer and advocate.

Dr. Noam Arnon, Hebron Jewish community spokesperson wrote the following about him:

With the passing of Avraham Kiryati, I feel like I witnessed the fall of a tall, magnificent tree, towering to a great height, radiating majesty and glory, whose roots were deeply planted in the ground, a tree that connected heaven and earth. Such a loss affects all its surroundings -- visible from afar, inspiring respect and admiration and a desire to connect with heritage and personality.

About ten years ago I had the privilege of interviewing Avraham and hearing his life story.

Avraham Kiryati was deeply rooted in the place where the deepest roots of the Jewish people are to be found, in the ancestral city of Hebron. His family belonged to the historic Sephardic community in the city. His mother descended from the Elyashar family, the family of the first Sephardi Chief Rabbi of the land of Israel, Rabbi Yaakov Shaul Elyashar, author of the Yisa Beracha. His father was born in Hebron to the Capilouto family, which originated from Spain.
His grandfather Eliyahu Capilouto married Rivka Castel of the well-established Castel family of Hebron. They had three daughters and two sons. Avraham’s father was the eldest, Yaakov Capilouto. He was the first person to drive a car from Hebron to Jerusalem. He was also the person who installed the electric lights at the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and for this purpose received special permission from the Turkish government to enter the structure, something forbidden for non-Muslims.

After his parents' marriage, they moved to Jerusalem. At the time of the 1929 Hebron massacre, Avraham was eight years old, and on one of his frequent visit to his grandparents in Hebron, Eliyahu and Rebecca Capilouto. He has recorded detailed descriptions of his memories. Avraham explained how his grandfather ran to the door to stop the mob from entering. Avraham and his grandmother ran and hid in a chicken coop. He saw his grandfather fighting the rioters and getting stabbed. He heard the screams of the victims who were slaughtered in the houses next to them. He heard the cries of the guest-house owner who lived across the street. His father, uncle and the three sisters were not in Hebron at the time of the massacre.

His grandfather was seriously injured and was hospitalized in Jerusalem. Later, it seemed that he recovered and participated in the construction of the tombstones for the victims. But shortly after the completion of this work, in 1930, he died from his wounds sustained during the massacre and was buried near the plot of the victims. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, Avraham visited Hebron with several members of the Haganah and was photographed next to his grandfather's grave.

The Jewish survivors of the massacre were deported. The community was renewed in 1931. After her husband's death, Avraham’s grandmother Rebecca decided to return to live in Hebron alone and was engaged in selling jewelry. In 1936 the Jewish community of Hebron were deported again and she moved to Jerusalem.

Abraham grew up in Jerusalem. Later he served in the Defense Communications Corps, and was also recruited into the British Army, where he reached the rank of Supply Officer of the Jerusalem District. In this capacity he was able to transfer to the besieged Jewish community in Jerusalem the contents of the British food warehouses and thus made a decisive contribution to the standing of the Jewish community in Jerusalem during the siege. After the establishment of the state, he was deputy director of the Ministry of Supply and Rationing.

In the Six Day War he served in the headquarters of the Israel Defense Force 16th Brigade and was privileged to participate in the liberation of Hebron. Together with his uncle - his mother's brother - Avraham Franco, Chairman of the Hebron Refugee Committee, they visited the ancient cemetery in Hebron, but were shocked to find the tombstones uprooted and replaced by a field of tomatoes. They were partners in the initiative to redeem and restore the cemetery.
Avraham and his family took an active part in the Hebron refugee community in Jerusalem. His sister Ahuva married Menashe Gozlan-Golan, who also survived the massacre. They had connections to the families of Abushdid, Castel, Ezra, Mizrahi, Hasson, Franco, and other Hebron deportees in Jerusalem. Judge Moshe Hasson was his friend and later was one of the leaders of the Hebron refugee community in Jerusalem. Together they participated in the commemorations for the victims  of the massacre held in Hebron and preserved the embers of memory and heritage.

Avraham supported with all his heart the renewal of the Jewish community in Hebron, the base and roots of the Jewish people in their homeland. May we be able to complete his vision and thus be able to gain a trace of consolation for the passing of an impressive and special personality.

 * * *

Member of Knesset Orit Strock mourned Avraham Kiryati as “a neighbor and soulmate of my late father.” MK Strock, who lives in Hebron is the daughter of researcher and academic Yehuda Cohen.

Avraham Kiryati got his last name from none other the Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who advocated for Hebrew names. Ben-Gurion suggested the name “Kiryati” from Kiryat Arba, as a tribute to the family’s hometown.
“He attached Kiryati to my name, and I am happy about that,” said Kiryati in an interview with the Jerusalem Post from 2019.

In 2021, Kiryati was honored on his 100th birthday in a celebration at the Beit HaHagana building in Jerusalem and attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Deputy Mayor Hagit Moshe, and the Jerusalem regional Histadrut labor federation chair, and two of Kiryati’s fellow Hagana members age 95 and 96.

Throughout his adult like, Kiryati worked as deputy director-general of the Economy and Industry Ministry, and was a successful attorney noted in multiple legal decisions over the years.

* Avraham Kiryati interview - Arutz Sheva (English)
* Avraham AKiryati memorial - Kipa (Hebrew)
United States contact info:
1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Facebook * YouTube * Instagram * TikTok * Twitter

Israeli contact info:
(Photo below: Dr. Noam Arnon presents Avraham Kiryati with a book about the history of Hebron.)
No Comments