Michael and Sharona, the "adoptive and adopted" siblings of fallen lone soldier Max Steinberg, visited his grave this week in place of his parents, who were unable to make the trip to Israel.
Steinberg, who lived in Be'er Sheva, was killed during 2014's Operation Protective Edge. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands Israelis wishing to pay tribute to him and honor his service, sacrifice, and death.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Michael and Sharona spoke about their relationship with Max and what he meant to them.
"Max came to us - he was a Californian boy, he was very fun, he was very social," Michael said. "When he met friends, when he met my friends, he instantly became their friend. It was very easy to communicate with him."
"He came over in the holidays so he spent some time in Be'er Sheva with us - because we live in Be'er Sheva - before he joined the army. And it was during the bombing from Gaza. So even before he went in the army, he experienced what it's like to be citizens of the south."
"He was hiding from the rockets with us, and we told him, 'Max, why do you need this? You can go home.' And he said, 'No. I'm going to go the army and I'm going to protect you and I'm going to help you.'"
Sharona added that she visited his grave on Memorial Day because, "There's no other option. He's our brother and we'll be here no matter what. And it's an honor."
She added that she will keep on telling his story, "always, everywhere, any way I can. It means the world to me."
Michael noted that Max's parents, Evelyn and Stuart, usually visit his grave twice a year but have been unable to due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's really hard for them not to be here," Michael emphasized, noting that "they're trying to go to interviews, go to ceremonies, and the live chat from here, because they want to be part of it, even though it's really hard for them."
"They usually come at least twice a year, for Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and they come in the summer when it's the memorial day itself, and because of COVID it's been over a year since they've been there and it's really hard for them not to visit their son."
Sharona added: "I think it's important to remember that the reason they buried Max here is because they felt that this is his home, it's his place, and he found so much meaning here. So I know it's hard for them but I'm sure they're happy to know that this is the place and a lot of people came today to honor him and many others, and I think it makes things a bit easier."