16 Days into Protective Edge operation, the list of fallen soldiers grows longer and longer. In the last 48 hours, two names of so-called “lone soldiers” whose families live outside of Israel were added to the list: two young Americans who moved to Israel and served in the IDF – Sgt. Sean Carmeli, who grew up in South Padre, Texas, and Sgt. Max Steinberg, from Los Angeles.
On Monday afternoon, when the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli was announced, there was fear that not that many people would attend as he does not have immediate family Israel. The Maccabi Haifa soccer team, of which Sgt. Carmeli was a fan, called on the public to pay their respects to the lone soldier. Participation went far beyond all expectations: around 20,000 people from all over Israel came together to pay their respects.
And, today, the people of Israel embraced the family of the lone soldier from L.A, Sgt. Max Steinberg. As a Jewish-American organization, ADL Israel staff felt the need to attend the funeral and pay our respects to this young American-Jew who came to Israel and fought in his combat unit shoulder to shoulder with his Israeli friends. On an extremely hot day, tens of thousands flocked to the cemetery – estimates runs between 30,000-40,000 people – the vast majority of whom did not know Sgt. Steinberg.
The funeral started with the almost surreal announcement by the Home Front Command instructing attendees what to do in case a siren went off during the funeral. Even during this emotional and tragic moment, this reminder served to reinforce the fragile nature of the current Israeli reality.
The eulogies delivered at the funeral brought to life Max’s character and the strong connection he felt for the State of Israel and the IDF. His insistence on serving in the Golani combat unit, and doing so with excellence in the various courses during the training process, reflect his special commitment and strength.
As Israelis, we felt that joining the impressive attendance at the funeral was our way of expressing our sorrow at the loss and our deepest gratitude for an individual who was willing to sacrifice his life in a just war, in order to protect our lives. Many brought Israeli flags and waved them proudly. Max’s emotional father ended his remarks with a prayer for peace, and a stirring: ” Am Israel Chai” – the people of Israel live.