Dekel Swissa stayed with his host family for six months in 2018 and 2019. They remained close and saw him one week before his death.
ATLANTA — The host family of a young Israeli soldier who died during an attack this week said he dedicated his life to serving and protecting his country. Dekel Swissa stayed with his host family for six months in 2018 and 2019. They remained close and saw him one week before his death.
Swissa’s host family is in Israel currently visiting their children. The metro Atlanta family recalled Swissa saying, “Don’t forget to smile when you wake up in the morning.” They added he always saw the good in other people.
The reality of the war in Israel hit home for the Kalnitz family.
“Lots of tears. We love Dekel. He was he was our Israeli adopted son,” Marcy Kalnitz said.
Marcy Kalnitz said Swissa served as the commander of his unit close to Gaza and ordered soldiers into the bomb shelter after it came under attack Sunday.
“He put them into the shelter, closed the door, and turned around and faced all the terrorists by himself taking out, the numbers differ anywhere from 20 to 50, terrorists on his own until he succumbed to his wounds,” Neil Kalnitz said.
The young lieutenant died at just 23 years old.
Five years ago, the Kalnitz family served as Swissa’s host family for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Shinshinim program, which brings recent Israeli high school graduates to Atlanta for a gap year before their military service.
“He treated people with respect and never raised his voice, and he was just a good soul,” Neil Kalnitz said.
Swissa remained like family after returning to Israel.
“I got engaged, and he flew in from Israel to Atlanta for my engagement party to spend time with my family. It’s just unbelievable the bond that we had with him,” Shira Kalnitz said.
“He was sweet. He was loving. He was funny. He even came on our family trips with us. We took him down to Florida,” Noah Kalnitz said.
Swissa donated $30 to charity every month. March Kalnitz said many of us can learn how to live life through his example.
“We hope that everyone can pray and give charity and be kind to one another in his memory. Do it for Dekel,” Marcy Kalnitz said.
Marcy Kalnitz said Swissa’s funeral date hasn’t been set because there are so many Israeli soldiers to bury. Normal Jewish custom is to hold a burial on the same day of a death.