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Notes from Jerusalem: Our Heroic Lone Soldiers

By Rochel Sylvetsky
7/22/2014, 3:07 PM

The post-WWII book "Jews Fight Too" was written to prove to the world that Jews were not only victims of Hitler, but that large numbers of Jewish soldiers were part of the allied forces that freed the world from Nazism. It carefully listed the many different decorations and medals these soldiers received.

No one needs to prove the valor of Jewish soldiers anymore.

But there is a special bravery in the lives of lone soldiers, a heightened and pure level of idealism and love for the land of Israel and its people.

And there is a special love that reaches out to the lone soldier from those of us who also left parents and siblings to move to the land of Israel, to take part in the great panoply of  living Jewish history – the good times and the sad times - that Israel is all about. 

Olim can all attest to those stabbing moments of loneliness when we have to do without our extended families on holidays, at birthday parties and graduations. Our hearts go out to these young men going through backbreaking basic training without being able to come home to mom and dad and to their own rooms for furloughs, no matter how much the families who volunteer to host them for the duration of their service (and we have been that family more than once) try to fill the gap.

How did the two lone soldiers, Max and Sean, feel when everyone called home before going into Gaza? And how did their parents, who raised boys to have such courage and integrity, bear the anxiety from overseas? I thought of that this morning at a class I attended when the teacher confessed that her youngest is in Gaza and had called last night after five days of silence, sounding exhausted. Another woman, suddenly frightened, said she hadn't heard from her son at all. And I pictured the worried parents of these two idealistic heroes receiving the worst message of all from so far away.  

Sean Carmeli Hy"d remained in Israel when his parents returned to Texas. The Michael Levin Center for Lone Soldiers posted the following about Sean on their Facebook page:

“Everything may be bigger in Texas, but the beaches and parties could not distract a native-son from returning home to defend and protect his people".

The last words Max Steinberg Hy"d said to his father in LA on Sunday, quoted in the LA Jewish Journal, were "Tell my mom I love her."

And describing this courageous volunteer Golani sniper, who made his new home in Beer Sheva, the Center posted that he came “from a proud Zionist home” and "did everything he could to stand up and fight for what was right."

“They made the ultimate sacrifice, in an attempt to rid the world of one of the most evil, unimaginable and horrible organizations to ever exist.”, it ended. 

Like the Maccabees before them, the two young Jewish soldiers answered the call to fight evil .

In WWI, 28 year-old British poet Rupert Brooke, wrote a poem whose first lines have come to symbolize a soldier's ultimate sacrifice for love of his country. He was killed soon after whle fighting in France:

"If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England"

Had either Sean or Max expressed this thought, the change in words would have told it all :

"If I should die, think only this of me: That there is a place in my beloved land, the land for which I gave my life, where I will rest forever."

And that place is also in our hearts.

Note: As this is written, news of the death of another hero, lone soldier Jordan ben Simon, from France, has been publicized. May G-d comfort his family and may there be no more sacrifices of any IDF soldier.