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Ziv Kipper, Murdered in Egypt, Had a ‘Big Jewish Heart’

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From Ukraine to Alexandria, Kipper dedicated himself to community

By: Mordechai Lightstone

When news broke of Israeli-Canadian Ziv Kipper’s murder in Alexandria, Egypt, on May 7, a widely shared photo showed him smiling widely, wearing tefillin, with two Chabad rabbinical students at his side. It was taken in the Alexandria home of the frozen fruit and vegetable exporter in the fall of 2023.

Born in the Soviet Ukraine, Kipper’s life journey had taken a circuitous route—emigrating with his family to Israel when he was a child; followed by time in Canada, where he attended college; and then running various businesses that brought him back to Ukraine, and ultimately, to Egypt.

Rabbis Mendel Goldman and Mendy Konikov visited Alexandria in September to lead Rosh Hashanah services at the magnificent Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in the heart of the Egyptian port city. During Roman times, as much as 35 percent of Alexandria’s population was made up of Jews, and it remained home to tens of thousands of Jews until they were expelled after 1948.

Rabbi Mendel Goldman and Rabbi Mendel Konikov stand outside the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt, on their recent trip before Rosh Hashanah.Credit: Mendel Goldman

“We went to Alexandria before Rosh Hashanah to visit the local community,” Goldman says. As he and Konikov walked down the street near their hotel on Friday afternoon before Shabbat, a car pulled up in front of them. “The driver rolled down the window and gave us this huge ‘Shabbat Shalom!’”

The driver left quickly, but later sent a message via mutual contacts that the visiting students should probably swap out their black hats and jackets for something less conspicuous when out on the street.

Goldman and Konikov spent the time before Rosh Hashanah visiting the tiny expat Jewish community, and when the pair went to visit Ziv Kipper—one of their main contacts in the community—they were pleased to see that he was the driver who’d wished them a Shabbat Shalom.

“He was very welcoming,” Konikov recalls. “He put on tefillin, and we spent a few hours speaking.” Later, Kipper drove them around, showing them the sites of the beautiful city once known as the “Bride of the Mediterranean.”

Kipper liked to travel to his hometown in Chernigov, Ukraine for the Jewish holidays and often helped lead them. Credit: Jewish Community of Chernigov

Kipper was shot and killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday in Alexandria. Reports state he was not robbed in the attack, and a previously unknown Islamic terrorist group took credit for the murder. Egyptian security sources told Reuters that the murder was being investigated as a criminal matter and security services said on Wednesday that they’d taken a suspect into custody. On the same day a graphic video purporting to be of Kipper’s murder began circulating online. In the video, shot with a go-pro camera, the attacker can be heard saying “shalom” before shooting, and then “shalom from the children of Gaza.”

 

‘He Had Such a Warm, Jewish Heart’

The Soviet-born Kipper’s status as a global wanderer meant that over the years, he’d forged many warm relationships with Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

“Ziv used to tell me that when he retires, he would be a rabbi’s assistant,” says Rabbi Yisroel Silberstein, Chabad emissary to Chernigov, Ukraine. “He was just this incredibly warm and gregarious person.”

Silberstein recalls meeting Kipper shortly after the rabbi and his family moved to Chernigov in 2010.

“Even when he traveled Ziv always made a point of being back home in Chernigov for the holidays,” Silberstein recalls. There, he would assist the rabbi during the Passover Seder, translating portions of the Haggadah from Hebrew to Russian, or bringing new fruit from Egypt in honor of Rosh Hashanah. A generous person, Kipper would bring suitcases of toys he manufactured for needy children in the Ukrainian cities he lived in. For a while he operated a limousine service in Chernigov, and would treat children from the Chernigov community to a limo drive during the Jewish community’s annual Lag BaOmer parade.

When war broke out in Ukraine in February of 2022, Kipper made Alexandria his home base. Even while in Egypt, he remained in touch with Silberstein. “You know, I’m almost like a Chabad rabbi here,” Kipper would tell him.

Kipper was a favorite of the children in Chernigov, often bringing toys on his visits and treating children to a limo drive during the Jewish community’s annual Lag BaOmer parade. Credit: Jewish Community of Chernigov

The two would text regularly, as recently as this past Sunday, when Kipper sent the last of the Shabbat Shalom GIFs and memes he was known to share via WhatsApp with the many people he knew.

Goldman and Konikov likewise kept in touch with Kipper after they left Egypt.

“There was a depth in the bond we formed with Ziv,” Goldman says. “In many ways, we felt like perhaps the whole trip had been for us to connect with him. He had such a warm, Jewish heart.”

Kipper told the young rabbis that he never hid the fact that he was Jewish from his employees or neighbors. After the Oct. 7 terror attacks in southern Israel, both Silberstein and Goldman asked Kipper if his plans had changed.

“When we spoke in March, Ziv was very clear that he felt safe in Alexandria,” says Silberstein. “He had a sense of purpose about where he was.” (Chabad.org)

Addendum: On Friday, May 10th, the Jewish News Syndicate reported that Ziv Kipper, a Jewish businessman with Israeli, Canadian and Russian citizenship who was killed earlier this week in Alexandria, Egypt, was murdered in an anti-Semitic attack, his wife told Hebrew media on Wednesday.

“He wasn’t robbed,” Oksana Kipper claimed in an interview with Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster, adding that Egyptian authorities had offered her little information on the circumstances of the incident.

An Egyptian security source has told Reuters that Kipper’s death was being investigated as a criminal act, rejecting any link to his Israeli background and denying knowledge of the claim of responsibility.

Also on Wednesday, a previously unknown pro-Palestinian terror organization in Egypt claimed responsibility for the alleged murder.

In unconfirmed footage of the shooting released by the nascent Vanguard of Liberation–Martyr Mohammed Salah terrorist group, a gunman can be seen executing a man sitting in a parked vehicle. JNS has decided not to publish the graphic propaganda video on its website.

Mohammed Salah was a police officer from Cairo who killed three Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a cross-border terrorist attack last year.

“Wait for the next one. Shalom from the children of Gaza,” read a caption on the video, which was shared through the Telegram messaging application. The statement claimed that Kipper had been gathering intelligence on behalf of the Mossad, using his job as a cover.

Rabbi Mendel Goldman (right of image) told Chabad.org that “in many ways, we felt like perhaps the whole trip had been for us to connect with him. He had such a warm, Jewish heart.” Credit: Mendel Goldman

Kipper owned a vegetable processing factory in Egypt for nearly 10 years and used to enter the country using his Canadian passport.

The slain businessman served as the CEO of O.K Group LLC, one of the largest Egyptian exporters of frozen vegetables, citrus, and other fruits and vegetables, “with the head office in Alexandria, Egypt, and offices in Ukraine and Israel,” according to his LinkedIn page.

Kipper’s identity has yet to be confirmed by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, which is handling the incident along with the Cairo embassy.

Kipper is the third Israeli national to have been killed in Alexandria since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre in the northwestern Negev.

On Oct. 8, the day after Hamas launched its latest war against Israel, two Israelis were killed and another was moderately injured in a shooting attack directed at a group of tourists also in the Egyptian port city.

 (JNS.org)

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