Sgt. Sean Carmeli, a Golani fighter was killed in the Gaza earlier this week. Sean was under the official status of “a lone soldier” as his parents live both in the United States and in Israel. The 6,000-mile journey Sean’s parents made to bury him must have been the longest, most difficult journey they have ever made. Meanwhile, his relatives in Israel took care of the funeral arrangements.
Sean’s family was worried that only a few people would show up at the funeral in Haifa, since he didn’t grow up there and has only a few friends and relatives close by. But Haifa’s bureau of Law, Haifa’s soccer team, the Jewish Agency for Israel and others made requests on social media for people to come pay their last respects to Sean and to escort him to his final resting place.
Sean wasn’t a lone soldier any longer. Israelis from across the country attended his funeral, thanking him for his ultimate sacrifice, one he made so that we can live. Just before midnight, more than 20,000 who attended his funeral were waving the Israeli flag for this son of Israel!
Sean followed in the footsteps of many Jews from around the world who have volunteered to fight for the Jewish homeland. They are not obligated, as they are not Israeli citizens, but they feel compelled to do so.
These brave men and women leave behind their families and an expected path to college and career. They join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in order to defend the Jewish state.
Within Operation Protective Edge, Sean’s funeral stands out as a moment of national unity of a shared faith. Sean’s funeral symbolizes our values, our strength and what Jewish peoplehood really means: Sean made a decision, like 2,000 other lone soldiers serving in the army today and thousands have in the past, to join forces with others who share a vision of being part of something great, powerful and real. These lone soldiers make a conscious decision to risk their lives, along with those of native-born Israelis, in defending our home.
Twenty-four-year old Max Steinberg from California also made the decision to leave Los Angeles and join the Israeli army as a volunteer. Max was a Woodland Hills native who graduated from El Camino High School and attended Pierce College. Max participated in a Birthright Israel trip, fell in love with the country and decided to move here and join the army. When Max was on break from his army duty he lived in Beer Sheva, a city that has been under constant rocket fire from Hamas.
Whether it is the rockets that continue to rain down on Israeli communities, or learning that two more soldiers were killed last night, good news is hard to come by. Courageous battles give way to the Sisyphean attempts of the IDF to find and destroy Hamas’ deadly tunnels. And we learned that the body of one of the seven soldiers killed on Sunday in an attack on an armored personnel carrier is still missing.
In the midst of all this, comes some inspiration. Despite the war in Gaza, 228 new immigrants, among them 100 children from the U.S. and Canada arrived to Israel today!
These wonderful North American families, who as of today will become Israelis, join thousands of Jews across North America who support Israel. You send letters and gifts to Israeli soldiers heading into battled, and to young children hiding in bomb shelters. You share our concern and like Jews have throughout the ages, you turn your love and hope toward our homeland. This is who we are; this is what Max and Sean were here to do.
Max and Sean will forever be remembered for their sacrifice, their solidarity and their fight for peace. In their hearts, they carried our hope.