Tens of thousands of Israelis attended the funeral of Staff Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli in Haifa Monday night. Carmeli was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and a “lone soldier” in the Israel Defense Forces.
About 30,000 people attended the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg Wednesday. Max, too, was a lone soldier who had immigrated to Israel on his own from California. He served in the Golani Brigade and was killed in Gaza.
Most of the attendees at the funeral did not know Max. They were simply citizens who had decided to honor him for his sacrifice to their county — and his.
What possesses a young man to leave behind all that is good and familiar to embrace a destiny that is at best uncertain, at worst tragic?
I suspect that it is the belief that a life lived well is a life lived in the service of a grand idea, not the attainment of creature comforts.
What convinces a nice Jewish boy from the San Fernando Valley of Southern California to volunteer to fight in an Israeli infantry brigade?
Perhaps it is the inner peace that comes with knowing that he is dedicating every waking moment to glorious Jewish sovereignty, not the lame existence of those who value personal safety above peoplehood.
These lone soldiers — what passions fuel a decision to leave the small Texas town of South Padre Island for the blind alleys of the Gaza Strip?
Could be that it is the acknowledgement that while war is an ugly thing, slavery is the ugliest of things.
What strange thoughts occupy the minds of such eccentric young men?
Probably that in this age of radical individualism, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a laudable act.
What do they expect to gain from such a thankless endeavor?
Maybe to help the Jewish people reach the beckoning candle of peace that has burned brightly for 2,000 years.
Why do boys like these choose to rush headlong into harm’s way?
They may think that evil is not only caused by the actions of others, but their inaction as well.
What song plays in the hearts of foreign nationals who forsake life and home for the mud, blood and tears that inevitably, inexorably accompany a combat unit crossing into hostile terrain?
If I had to guess, I would say it’s “Redemption Song.” The redeemed souls of Sean and Max, having slipped the surly bonds of earth, have touched the face of G-d.
May their memories be a blessing.
View the original published version of this piece, as it appeared in Israel Hayom, here.