As the Israeli-Hezbollah war enters its third week, amongst the civilians and military personnel killed so far are new Israelis of American nationality, including a 21 year old soldier, Staff Sergeant Michael Levin. Levin, who immigrated to Israel three years ago at age 19, had come to Israel by himself; and had joined the army out of a sense of obligation to serve his new country by joining the Paratroop Brigade. One of three solders killed in battles with Hezbollah fighters near the southern Lebanon town of Aita al-Shaab, Michael was one of many immigrant soldiers known as “hayal boded” or lone soldier without immediate family in Israel.
Among the hundreds who attended his funeral at the Mt. Herzl military in Jerusalem, were several members of his family who had flown over immediately upon receiving news of his death. A number of American-born rabbis were also in attendance, including Rabbis Allen Silverstein and Paul Freedman, both of whom considered it especially difficult to be witness such as sad event, particularly since the young solder was interned on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av; a day marked in Jewish history as one in which numerous tragic events have taken place, including the destruction of both the First and Second Temple. ” Today, on Tisha B’Av, here in Jerusalem, where Jewish hearts have been breaking throughout the centuries, they are breaking again today once again”, Rabbi Silverstein noted during the many eulogies given for Michael. Rabbi Freedman, added that “with Michael’s passing, we pray for a final and lasting peace in Israel”.
Hailing from Holland Pennsylvania, Michael, son of Mark and Harriet Levin, had been raised in a family who had been very active in Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, which prompted him to make the bold effort to come and make his home in Israel, despite his young age. Michael was named for an uncle who had distinguished himself with honor during WWII. One of the eulogists, Tzviki Levy, member of an organization who helps to assist lone soldiers, said: “For a Jewish family of such a soldier, though you live across the sea, we will never forget your son’s contribution to the people of Israel”.
Michael’s death occurred on the same day that two other soldiers plus nine civilians were killed; all the result of the fighting with the Hezbollah. His death follows another American born Israeli, Dave Litchuk aged 52, and also a recent arrival to Israel, who was killed by a Katyusha rocket as he pedaled his bicycle to the safety of a shelter on his border Kibbutz, just a few days before.
No doubt, a number of Lebanese Americans have also been killed so far in the conflict as well, due to heavy bombardment of Beirut and other Lebanese cities. The tragedy of these occurrences is that these people left of comparative safety of their home communities in America, to live in countries where the bitter taste of war occurs far too often. Young soldiers such as Sgt Levine, could have decided to remain in their home country, and thus be far away from such tragic realities. Instead, they decided to “take the road less traveled on” as American poet Robert Frost once wrote. Their memories will not be forgotten.