Harriet Levine, the mother of fallen lone soldier Michael Levine, addresses a memorial at Ammunition Hill on Tuesday night.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hundreds of people gathered at Ammunition Hill on Tuesday night to take part in a Memorial ceremony commemorating lone soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the State of Israel, hosted by the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin.
The mothers of fallen lone soldiers Michael Levin and Max Steinberg shared their sons’ stories, while Tuvia Book commemorated his friend and fellow lone soldier Alex Singer who in 1987 was killed on his 25th birthday while trying to save the life of his commanding officer in southern Lebanon.
A memorial torch was lit by Michael and Pat Blank, the parents of lone soldiers Sam and Aron Blank. Shlomo Katz played several songs during the proceedings and psalms were also recited.
Evie Steinberg, the mother of Sgt. Max Steinberg, who fell fighting in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in July 2014, told how she was in awe of her son for making the decision to join the IDF. “In June 2012, he went on birthright to Israel… he fell in love with the country, the land and its people. He returned from the trip in July 2012 and by September 11, 2012, he was on his way to Israel to join the IDF.”
Steinberg said her son enlisted that December. When asked why he had joined the IDF, she recalled Max’s answer: “Everybody else has to, so why should I be different?”
Speaking no Hebrew, he was determined from day one to be a combat soldier in the Golani Brigade. Despite being told that his Hebrew “was not good enough for battle,” he would not take no for an answer. He was asked three more times during his army interview what else he’d be interested in and he answered: “Stop asking me the same thing – send me home or send me to jail.”
He joined the Golani Brigade and was known for his determination, for always going beyond the call of duty and for never complaining, even when asked by his commander to do difficult tasks. He would also volunteer to remain on base so that soldiers who had family in Israel could go home for Shabbat.
During Operation Protective Edge, Max was injured when his armored personnel carrier was hit by another one. He was pulled out but decided to go back in, despite not needing to do so. “Mom, my brothers need me,” he told her after calling to tell her he’d been injured.
Max, because of you we came to Israel – and like you, we fell in love with the land and people. Because of you we have become strong Zionists; because of you we have learned not to live for ourselves but to live for others,” his mother said.
“I would also like to thank Israel for teaching me the proper way to honor veterans and those that serve the military... when I came to Israel for my first Memorial Day I was absolutely shocked. I had mixed emotions – a lot of sadness but a lot of pride… I think the Americans can learn something from the Israeli people [about how to observe Memorial Day],” she added.
LEVIN’S MOTHER, Harriet Levin, said that “up until Michael fell [in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War], the words ‘lone soldier’ were virtually unheard of.”
“Michael always had my support in whatever he did,” she said. “When I speak, the kids ask me, ‘If you knew Michael would fall in battle would you have [urged him to stay home]?’ Even though my heart breaks every day and I miss him terribly, the answer is ‘no.’ Michael’s life is no more important than any other life that was given so that we should have our homeland, a country and be free.”
Tuvia Book, a close friend of Lt. Singer lamented that the lone soldier, originally from the US, had lived a full life. He was a talented writer and artist with a deep love for the State of Israel. “He died while doing what he really loved [defending the State of Israel]… Alex died as he lived, leading by personal example.”
In a letter to his brother on the eve of his immigration to Israel, he said that by making aliya he had a greater chance “of making his Judaism one of joy rather than one of burdens.” He wanted to be part of Israel’s development as a state and a beacon, and felt that “this is the duty of an individual Jew to help the Jewish people.”
His parents gathered his writing and art and published the book Alex Building a Life: The Story of an American Who Fell Defending Israel to show the world what their son had lived for.
Shlomo Katz then closed the ceremony with an emotional rendition of “Hatikva.”
The Lone Soldier Center houses, feeds and supports the 7,000 lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF who have no family in Israel.
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