In the quiet before dawn, the world is often at its most reflective—a time when the shutter of a camera can capture not just images, but stories, dreams, and, sometimes, the last moments of a life about to be cut tragically short.
Gilad Kfir, an electronics engineer by trade and a photographer by calling, stood in the predawn stillness of his kibbutz, Nativot HaAsarah, camera in hand. The sirens had just begun their haunting wail, a sound all too familiar to the residents along the fraught borderlands of Gaza. But where others sought shelter, Gilad sought to witness, to document the stark reality of his world through the lens of his beloved camera—a companion in his quest to seize the beauty and the pain of life in equal measure.
This story, as reported by Ynet, an Israeli news outlet, is one of passion and unfulfilled dreams, a narrative thread abruptly severed by the violence of an October morning (“גלעד תיעד את המחבלים והרקטות רגע לפני שנרצח: ‘הצילום היה בשבילו תשוקה'” by Ynet, 2023).
At 48, Gilad stood on the threshold of a transformative era in his life. He was betrothed to Jinky, a wonderful woman hailing from the Philippines, who was nearing the date to bring their first child into the world—a fulfillment of Gilad’s enduring aspiration to embrace fatherhood. Jinky bore the beacon of their forthcoming days—a newborn who would be deprived of experiencing Gilad’s tender affection, his boundless cheer, or witnessing the spark in his gaze as he peered through his camera’s viewfinder.
On the morning of October 7th, as rockets arced across the sky, Gilad did what he had done so many times before—he captured the moment. His camera, an extension of his very being, clicked and whirred, freezing in time the harbingers of destruction that soared overhead. But this time, the sky also bore silent drones, and upon them, the grim silhouettes of armed militants.
The images he captured that morning were his last. Gilad was found, his life extinguished by the very violence he chronicled, his camera by his side. It was a cruel twist of fate that the lens through which he had hoped to share the world with his unborn child would be a silent witness to his final breaths.
Roy Galitz, a renowned nature photographer and a friend, spoke of Gilad’s late-blooming passion for photography—a flame that burned all the brighter for its belated ignition. “He took it to remarkable heights,” Galitz said. “He was incredibly talented; he was total in his dedication.”
Gilad’s father, Meir Yosef Kfir, painted a portrait of a man who lived life with gusto, who embraced every joy it offered with both hands—and sometimes, with all his savings. “If he heard of a new camera lens, he would read, study, and research it. Then he would order it and wait for its arrival like a child awaiting a birthday gift.”
For Gilad, photography was more than a hobby. It was an obsession, a love affair with the world as seen through the glass of a lens. He sought to capture not just images, but the essence of the moments they represented. His photographs were not mere representations; they were the stories of the land he loved, the people he cherished, and the nature he revered.
In the aftermath of tragedy, Gilad’s camera was returned to his family. The photographs he took in his final moments were a testament to his bravery and his unyielding desire to document the truth. They were also a stark reminder of the fragility of life in a land where the specter of violence is never far away.
As the community of Nativot HaAsarah mourned, Gilad’s story spread beyond the borders of his homeland. It became a narrative shared by all who value the power of an image, the strength of a dream, and the courage to pursue one’s passion in the face of danger.
Gilad Kfir’s legacy is etched in the memories he left behind, captured in the still frames of his camera—a gallery of a life lived fully, if not fully lived. His photographs stand as a poignant chronicle of a man who, in the pursuit of his art, became an unwitting hero, a chronicler of his time, and a voice for a future he would never see.
In the end, Gilad’s story is one of love and loss, of beauty and tragedy, interwoven in the final clicks of a shutter that captured so much more than images. It captured a life—a life that, through his art, will continue to speak long after the echoes of that fateful morning have faded into silence.
There is a memorial planned in New York City on November 15, 2023. For more information on the memorial, please visit here.
For more information on how to donate to his newborn baby Jinky and his soon-to-be newborn baby Zoe, please email Focus Magazine’s publisher, David Spivak.
Original story from Ynet (in Hebrew) here.