Ex-MK Yoni Chetboun with father of Sean Carmeli
Ex-MK Yoni Chetboun with father of Sean Carmeli Public Relations

Alon and Dalia Carmeli, the parents of first sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli who fell in battle in Gaza during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, have decided to follow in their son's footsteps and make aliyah from South Padre Island, Texas.

Carmeli was a lone soldier, meaning he had no family in Israel, and in a moving show of unity, thousands attended his funeral in Haifa in July 2014.

Officials of the Maccabi Haifa soccer team called on the team's fans to pay their last respects to Carmeli “so that his funeral will not be empty," and Israeli media estimated that anywhere from 12,000 to as many as 20,000 people heeded the call and attended the funeral.

Alon Carmeli told Channel 10 that the moving outpouring of support at the funeral touched the family.

"That really influenced us. We understood how much it matters to people, and how they felt close to him and to other soldiers who were killed."

The moment that the phone rang in Texas informing the parents of their tragic loss, Alon and Dalia packed their bags and came to Israel - and they haven't left since.

"I said I wouldn't leave my child again," explained the bereaved mother. "Even if he isn't here he is present always."

The Carmelis left their comfortable lives in Texas, which they had established over 20 years ago when they moved to the US from Israel.

"Sean relinquished his life for the state," said Or, Sean's sister. "I don't feel like I could live anywhere else."

The bereaved parents reportedly decided to make aliyah for another reason as well, so that they could occasionally visit the last place where Sean was - on the border with Gaza.

"It took me time to understand that a huge amount of people truly came to Sean's funeral," said Dalia. Her husband added, "we understood that with all the pain, we aren't alone. That makes us feel that here is home."

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