Seeing his family forced to leave Netzarim in the Gaza Strip last summer did not stop St.-Sgt. Amasa Meshulami, 20, from demonstrating unswerving loyalty in Israel's war against Hizbullah. On Saturday afternoon, Meshulami and the rest of his tank crew were killed by an anti-tank missile in Randuria, south Lebanon.
Meshulami leaves behind his wife, Yonat, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy, parents, and 16 brothers and sisters.
Amasa and Yonat married while he was performing his three-year mandatory army service and settled in Ofra in Samaria. They had plans to establish a farm.
"Amasa grappled with a lot of questions about loyalty to the state over the past year," said Doron Gaber of the Mitzpe Ramon Yeshiva High School, which Meshulami attended.
"But he had no doubts about the war in the north. He knew it was a fight for our very existence."
Unlike many graduates of religious high schools, Meshulami enlisted without first attending a hesder yeshiva or a pre-military academy.
Meshulami is the only soldier to die in the war who was evacuated during disengagement. Hundreds of former residents of Gaza and northern Samaria have answered the call to fight Hizbullah.
These are the same bitter opponents of both the current and previous governments, the same ideological settlers who called on soldiers to rebel against "expulsion orders," the same Israelis who felt betrayed by statesmen and country and who watched helplessly as their homes were destroyed by the IDF. Many have yet to find employment or permanent housing. Nevertheless, these people have put their bitterness aside and joined the war effort wholeheartedly.
"Amasa was very straightforward and honest," said Gaber. "He loved the land of Israel and the people of Israel. In a phone conversation a few days ago, he said he was proud to be fighting to protect his country."
Netzarim, the most isolated Jewish settlement in Gaza, totally surrounded by Palestinians, was also the most ideological. The Meshulami family, along with about half of Netzarim's population, were transferred to Yivul, a desolate town near the Egyptian border.
Shlomo Kostiner, who was a neighbor of the Meshulamis in Netzarim for 10 years and who now lives in Yivul along with Amasa's parents, Yehoshua and Rachel Meshulami, said Amasa Meshulami learned his values from his family.
"He was taught to serve his people in times of need," said Kostiner. "He realized that now is not the time for settling scores." Kostiner also said that one of Amasa Meshulami's brothers was an IAF pilot.
Meshulami, who began his army service before disengagement, was spared the task of evacuating Gush Katif.
"We taught our students to do everything in their power to avoid taking part in any way in the expulsion of Jews from their homes," said Gaber. "If they could not avoid it, many were told to disobey orders. Luckily, Amasa never had to face such a dilemma."