Why my brother really died

Texas-born soldier Sean Carmeli’s sister reflects on his life; "I feel Sean’s spirit inside of all of us," she says.

 Sgt. Sean Carmeli (photo credit: TAZPIT)
Sgt. Sean Carmeli
(photo credit: TAZPIT)
My brother, Sean Carmeli, was born and raised in South Padre Island, Texas. He grew up in a very warm and loving home, a safe environment where doors were never locked, and car keys were always left in the switch.
He was surrounded by people old and young, American, Mexican and Israeli, English, Spanish and Hebrew, Jewish and Christian. Plain and simple, he had an absolutely normal life.
Thankfully, we never felt any hatred, anti-Semitism, or any of that. Still, my parents decided to move to Israel when Sean was almost 16 years old. He continued high school in Ra’anana, and at age 18 was drafted to the army.
I am now taking a moment to look around my home, and I see my mother on the floor, sad and scared, and my father on the couch crying. The news is on, Paris and London are full of anti-Semitic demonstrations, Obama keeps changing political views, and I find myself wondering, has the world gone mad? It seems that everyone has gotten a little confused these days, in most of the world and in Israel as well. I hear people speaking of a war about land.
I keep hearing the term Israeli- Arab conflict or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t understand Islam vs Judaism. And personally, I don’t care.
The only thing that has been on my mind for the past two weeks is why my brother really died.
It seems a little hypocritical.
Aborigines in Australia, Indians in America, Armenians in Turkey, Tutsis in Rwanda, Iraqis by ISIS, Syrians by their own kind, Russia, Europe, Africa, and the list goes on. But the media emphasizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The political focus is on the Jews, the Jews, yes, the Jews. Perhaps this is all I see.
Perhaps it is the bubble I’ve set myself in. But is it? Is it really about a conflict having to do with land when protesters all over the world shout “Death to Jews”? I can tell you my opinion about life and people. Although born Jewish, I am not sure of my stance on the subject. I live in Israel but have dreamed of spending my life in every country or state possible. I am an Israeli, but my heart, mind and soul connects to every single human being in the world. I don’t care what you look like, where you come from, or what God you believe in or don’t believe in. I can also tell you that many, if not most, of my Jewish/Israeli friends feel the like.
But I can add my understanding of a Jewish state. Why does my family-by-blood hold on to the very little we were given? For the past 10 years I have refused to believe that Jews are still victimized, still being persecuted, still despised by an enormous number of people, for we live in the 21st century (although a total of over 200,000 innocent deaths in Syria, trapped in my subconscious, makes me question that).
The answer to my query is anti-Semitism. Whereas I would love to live in a pink world full of butterflies – no, I am not being cynical – it is not an option at the present time.
It is not an option because the beautiful fantasy of, for example, a binational state in Israel, comprised of Muslims and Jews, is not by any means the epitome of equality. As soon as Israel opens, not only its borders, but also its heart, it will instantly become an Islamic regime. And we all know what that means. (If you don’t, I suggest you hurry to Google as fast as you can.) An Islamic-ruled Israel may mean death to Jews, but if we don’t get that far, it may only suggest a very poor quality of life. A life consisting of inequality for women and gays, no freedom of speech, death in the most gruesome ways possible, and the list goes on. So for now, at this moment in my life, as a person living in the only democratic state in the Middle East, I will not open my door to Islam, and I do not apologize for that.
I will believethat one day this terror will be eliminated.
My belief stems from love and empathy, Terrorism has a broad agenda; it starts in Israel, but, like the Islamic State recently said, “The Islamic caliphate has been established, God willing it will not stop until we raise the flag of Prophet Muhammad in the White House.” My brother fought terrorism, not only for my family and me, but for all of you as well, with the hope that someday, Jews, Christians, Muslims and all religious and seculars people will find serenity in their homes, in their hearts, and in their minds.
I would like to take this opportunity for a very personal statement.
If I ever imagined a situation like this, the death of a loved one, I imagined myself crying on the floor, for years, watching my whole family in a dark state of depression, and loathing the world and everything in it. Although my stomach is filled with deep pain that will most likely exist forever, I don’t feel doing any of the above. I don’t know if it’s Sean’s strength that gets us through these days, or the atmosphere we have become accustomed to in the past few weeks, but I can say on behalf of my family that the love and support we received from family and friends, the city we life in (Ra’anana), Israel, and the world in general has given us so much love at a time that feels like the most painful and excruciating period in our lives.
For hugs, letters and presents, for thoughts and prayers, invitations, memorials, recognition and pure empathy, I want to say thank you for giving us the little bit of light we see in the darkest tunnel.
Although Sean was considered in technical terms a lone soldier, he was anything but – he was always surrounded by an abundance of love from an enormous number of people.
I don’t think that the many people who showed up at his funeral came just because he was a lone soldier, but also with the nation’s desire to feel united again, to be grateful from the bottom of their hearts, to show their deep recognition for all the heroes of Israel, both dead and living, and to connect to us in the most sincere manner possible.
And for this, I will forever be grateful.
Sean was a man of love, harmony, freedom and an abundance of life. I feel Sean’s spirit inside all of us, and I hear his voice saying simply, “This is awesome.”
I would like to take this opportunity to challenge the world to come to Israel, and see for yourselves what this country is really about. What it stands for.
Its tolerance, its beauty, its harmony, its happiness, its energy, its spirituality, but most of all its longing for peace. For the first time in my life, I can now call Israel my home.
St.-Sgt. Sean (Nissim) Carmeli, 21, from the Golani Brigade, was killed in Shejaia, Gaza City, on July 20 when a Hamas anti-tank missile struck his armored personnel carrier.