A salute to lone soldiers

Their lives and deaths highlight the heroism of lone soldiers – men and women who leave “the good life” in the Diaspora to defend the Jewish state.

IDF forces enter Gaza. July 17, 2014. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
IDF forces enter Gaza. July 17, 2014.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
There has been an overwhelming outpouring of solidarity over the three lone soldiers (in Israel without close family) killed in clashes with Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.
Tens of thousands attended the Jerusalem funeral on Wednesday of St.-Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, who grew up in California. On Tuesday night, there was a massive turnout for the funeral in Ashkelon of St.-Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun (Ben-Simon), 22, who was born and raised in Lyon, France. And the previous night, a spontaneous social media campaign led to masses attending the Haifa funeral of Sgt. Sean (Nissim) Carmeli, 21, who was raised in Texas by Israeli parents.
All three young men were, by all accounts, exceptional human beings, Jews and Zionists who made aliya in the prime of their lives and joined the IDF’s elite Golani Brigade.
They excelled during their service and made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Protective Edge. We offer heartfelt condolences to their families.
Their lives and deaths highlight the heroism of lone soldiers in Israel – men and women who leave “the good life” in the Diaspora and volunteer to defend the Jewish state.
At least another two other lone soldiers, one American and the other French, are hospitalized with wounds they sustained in the Gaza war. We wish them a speedy recovery.
There are more than 5,000 foreign lone soldiers serving in the IDF, about a third of whom are from North America. They are following in the footsteps of thousands of other lone soldiers from abroad who have fought for the country before and after the establishment of the state.
Among the wonderful organizations aiding them is The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin, an outstanding IDF soldier from Philadelphia who was killed at the age of 22 during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The center is “a grassroots, nonprofit organization created by former lone soldiers to assist the next generation of lone soldiers in all aspects of life, in the military and out.”
In his eulogy at Steinberg’s funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman said Max had been a hero because he saved lives, plain and simple.
“Max fought to make sure that missiles will not keep falling in our cities, and to destroy the tunnels of terror from Gaza,” Lipman said. “Max fought so that our children can have hope to live the way he himself was raised – without having to run to shelters because of air raid sirens and without the fear that terrorists may tunnel their way into their neighborhoods to kill them or kidnap them.”
In his moving tribute published in full in today’s Jerusalem Post, Lipman asked what had motivated Steinberg to make aliya. He said the answer could be found in a comment Steinberg’s mother, Evie, made to the media.
“He felt that if this was his calling, that being on the sidelines or even in the backseat was just not going to work,” she said.
Speaking at Carmeli’s funeral, Ze’ev Bielski – the mayor of Ra’anana, which Sean had made his Israeli home – noted that although he had grown up “among the beautiful vistas of Texas,” he had chosen to make his life here.
“You overcame the difficulties of integrating into the country,” Bielski said, addressing Carmeli. “You were popular and you gave of yourself.”
At Bensemhoun’s funeral, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky told the bereaved family that the whole of Israel was mourning with them.
“Your son is our son, Sharansky said. “Your brother is our brother.”
“Jordan came here alone, to do his part to defend all of us and keep Israel safe and free,” The Lone Soldier Center posted on Facebook. “Jordan was a lion who fought to serve in a unit full of tradition and accomplishment, a proud Israeli, a proud Jew, a proud Golanchik.”
This is the spirit of the lone soldier. And this is an apt moment for us to salute all lone soldiers and their contribution to the nation.