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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 1, 2014 For twoAmericans, service to Israel ends in h'00'gedy By Hillel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA)--Sean Carmeli, a sergeant in the Israeli army, was stationed in Israel's South awaiting possible orders to enter Gaza. He was exchanging Face- book messages with his friend Ian Benisti, a U.S. Marine reservist who was visiting Is- rael from California. The two had planned to get together, maybe go to the beach. But Israel was in the midst of an escalating conflict with Hamas. "Bro', hope this'll be over soon, so we can meet up," the Texas-born Carmeli wrote to Benisti in their last Facebook exchange on July 15. The wish went unfulfilled. Two days later, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza. Carmeli, 21, and another American, Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old from Woodland Hills, Calif., were among the 13 Israeli soldiers--all mem- bers of the Golani Brigade-- killed during heavy fighting in Gaza on Sunday. ,'He was a very sweet, nice kid---the mellow, calm, happy guy people want to be around," Benisti said of Carmeli. -Carmeli wasraised in the resort town of South Padre Island, Texas, and after his freshman year of high school moved with his two younger sisters and their Israeli par- ents to Raanana, a city not far from Tel Aviv. Alon and Dalya Carmeli were back in Texas working at their T-shirt shops on South Padre Island when they learned of their son's death and immediately returned to Israel, said Benisti, who attended Carmeli's funeral in Haifa late Monday night. The funeral drew an estimated 20,000 mourners. Carmeli "always had an angel on his shoulder, always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye," saidAaron Edelman, a Baltimore native who knew Carmeli from their Golani service. Benisti, whose father lives in Israel and who coinci- dentally was raised in both Woodland Hills and South Padre Island, said he plans to attend Steinberg's funeral on Wednesday morning in Jerusalem. Steinberg's connection to Israel was a more recent development. He first visited the country two years ago on a Birthright Israel trip. "He fell in love with the country and the people, and he knew he wanted to be there," said Danny Derakhshannia, Steinberg's childhood friend from California. Steinberg moved to Israel and became a "lone soldier," a term for Diaspora Jews who move to Israel to serve in the Israeli military without having close relatives in the country. According to the Lone Soldier Center, an Israeli non- profit, 5,700 such personnel currently serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The center was founded in honor of Michael Levin, a lone soldier from Philadelphia who was killed in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. Hearing of the two Ameri- cans' deaths is "reliving everything we went through with Michael,'! said Levin's mother, Harriet. Lori Trott, the principal of Saint Joseph Academy, the school in Brownsville, Texas, that Carmeli and sisters Gal and Oranit attended, said he was the first student in her 14 years there to be killed during military service. She said the school will commemorate Carmeli's life when the new term begins in early August. Avigil in Steinberg's mem- ory was held Sunday night at a park near where he grew up. Derakhshannia said he and Steinberg often went skate- boarding and bicycling there. "It was an emotional gath- ering," said Alex Cohen, another friend from the area. Derakhshannia recalled that Steinberg--known as "Little Max" because of his short stature--would take some big hits during recre- ational football games but would always bounce right up. "He was a tough, tough kid," IDF Spokesperson/Flash 90 Texas-born Israeli soldier Sean Carmeli, 21,was killed during combat in the Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. saidDerakhshannia, who knew Steinberg since they were mid- dle-school classmates. "Max would never holda grudge. He'd always be smiling." Derakhshannia, who iden- tifies himself as a non-prac- ticing Muslim and whose own parents are emigres from Daniel Derakhshannia Max Steinberg, 24, origi- nally from Woodland Hills, Calif., was killed during combat in the Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. Iran, called Steinberg "a true patriot." "He didn't just stand with the Israeli people; he was standing up for what's right," Derakhshannia said, adding, "That's why he went to Israel: to help democracy there.!' Kaddish for a Texan who gave his life in G00L00:a Flash 90 Israelis attending the funeral of Israeli soldier and Texas native Sean Carmeli, who was killed in Gaza, at a military cemetery in Haifa, July 21, 2014. single-file lines between the gravestones, their blank, sunken faces barely visible in the darkness. The coffin ap- pears, hoisted on their arms andwrapped in an Israeli flag. We follow in its wake. Within minutes, some By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--The soldiers walk past us, two By Aaron D. Panken First person 20,000 people have massed around the final resting place of Sean Carmeli, Texas na- tive, IDF soldier, soon to be declared a Hero of Israel. We stand silent as the rabbi chants verses of psalms beg- ging for mercy. We shrug off official instructions on protocol should a siren sound, Then a broken, crying, pantingvoice comes over the loudspeaker. Word by impos- sible word, Sean's faer :is saying Kaddish, We say amen, and ithits home: a21-year-otd boy is dead. "We all lost a brother to- day," Carmeli's friend, Elior Mizrachi, says in his eulogy. "He was my role model, my best friend." Mizrachi exhales. Across the crowd, people begin to sob. Thirteen soldiers died Sun- day in a fierce battle in Gaza, but for Americans living in Israel, Carmeli and Los An- geles native Max Steinberg stood out. They were like us, kids who grew up in the U.S. but moved here for a feeling, NEW YORK (JTA)--When the siren sounded, the Rolling Stones' tortured 1969 track "Gimme Shelter" popped into my head, oddly enough. That haunting song of- fered a stunning reminder of the endless horrors of war, reawakening a sleepy world with a vivid musical picture of human pain in times of combat. Merry Clayton's evocative vocalization of disturbing lyrics over a harsh musical background focused global attention on the awful realities of the Vietnam War. Nowadays, though, one hardly requires a song to experience war--live news feeds, endless websites and constant e-alerts satiate us with such input constantly. Such has certainly been the case with the ongoing Gaza-Israel crisis of the past an ethereal connection. Both were far from their families but, as Raanana Mayor Ze'ev Bielski said in his eulogy of Carmeli, they felt they had "got to the right place." Many of the tens of thou- sands who came to Haifa's Sde Yehoshua military cem- etery on Monday night were spurred On by social media, Israelis calling on each other to attend the funeral of a lone soldierwho had little family here. Maccabi Haifa, Carmeli's favorite soccer team, asked its fans on Facebook to "accom- pany him on his final road and represent us as one family." The eulogiesthey heardtold a story many American Israe- lis could recognize: Carmeli's high school principal recount- ing how he worked especially hard to catch up to his Israeli classmates. Mizrachi recalling how Carmeli would describe his parents in America to his friends in Israel, and his friends in Israel to his parents in America. Carmeli's brother- in-law telling the crowd about how his house had become Carmeli's second home, so far from the first. And then there was the story's sad ending. "We miss you so much," said Carmeli's brother-in-law, 'It will take awhile not to imag- ine you coming through the door, throwing you r bags on the ground." So much of Israeli life is about remembering the fallen--the sirens on Yom Hazikaron, the monuments across Israeli cities, the shells of tanks on the road to Jerusa- lem. But we constantly push it out of our minds, focus on day-to-day life, return to our routines minutes after bomb sirens ring out. "I always thoughtwe'd grow up parallel to each other for- ever," Mizrachi said. "I didn't know forever would be cut so short." By time the honor guard fired the final salute, the crowd was already filing out of the cemetery, back to life in Israel. Finding unity in a Jerusalem bomb shelter the images we see, however, are the more human sides of military conflict. Last week in Jerusalem, I witnessed this more human side. It started in a crowded lecture hall when the alarm- ing, warbling music of the first siren in the city immediately captured the attention of all present. Quickly, though not very quietly, we filed into the "miklat"--the shelter located in the basement of almost every building in Israel. Many Israelis do this with a practiced nonchalance learned over many wars and missile attacks. They roll their eyes at the inconvenience, remark on the fact that a little siren can take precedence over even the most important con- versation or event, chuckle at morbid jokes and generally rift on the annoyance of such happenings. It is, I suppose, a way of normalizing the abnormal-- weeks. Often ignored amid if quotidian life can continue even in the face of the fear, then the victory of Hamas, Hezbollah or whoever the present enemy may be is thereby restricted and limited. In the shelter, the most remarkable equality reigns. Babies, young children, teens, soldiers, the elderly are all there--the entire cycle of life walks down those stairs to seek safety, with all its glo- ries and challenges blatantly displayed. Those bedecked in yarmulkes or dressed in the black suits and hats of the haredi Orthodox stand alongside those who live Re- form, Conservative, secular or more postmodern lives, along with Israeli Arabs, Druze, Christians and others. Some pray, others recite Psalms, some chat, but most sit quietly and await the "all clear." For a few minutes, the divergent, contradictory and competitive streams of life in Israel all converge, and hu- man safety becomes the sole Miriam Alster/Flash 90 Israelis gathering in a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon, July 18, 2014. communal objective, theirprivateshelters, whoever precious stockrooms with Walking on a street in happens to be on the street strangers, welcome passers- Jerusalem when the alarm is welcomed in, no questions by into their inner sanctum sounds, the scene is even more asked. Shopkeepers, nor- profound. As people move to mally reticent to share their Unity on page 14A