About a month ago at the start of the Gaza conflict with Hamas I was in Israel for a conference on Israel Education. As part of the conference we had some meetings at the WZO offices on Har Herzl. At the end of the day found myself with about 30 minutes on my hands before my cousin Dubi was going to pick me up. So I decided it would be a good time to go visit Mike Levin’s grave. Mike was a Philly boy turned Chayal Boded– a lone soldier in the Israeli army. Mike was the only American born Israeli soldier who died in the Second Lebanon War. Mike was also a camper of mine from Camp Ramah in the Poconos. At the bottom of his grave the stone read, ” AN AMERICAN OLEH [immigrant] WHOSE LOVE OF G-D AND ISRAEL IS ETERNAL”. As you can see in this picture here his grave is adorned by his many visitors who connect to Mike’s love.
While I was there paying my tribute to Mike and decided to take a picture of the sign indicated the section he was buried in so I could find it easier in the future (Area Deled Section 6). In so doing I noticed the empty plots near at hand. At the time it seemed sad to think that Israel needs to plan ahead for future casualties of those who would die in defense of the State. It is depressing to realize that as long as there are Jews in the world there will be antisemitism and we will need heroes to protect us.
I think about Mike Levin every year on Tisha B’Av. He was most certainly one of those heroes. Now looking back at this picture I am filled with horror realizing just how many people have died this month. How many people are now in Har Herzl?
Among them have been a number of other lone soldiers. One of these lone soldiers was Max Steinberg from Los Angeles who volunteered in the Israel Defense Forces. He was killed along with 12 other soldiers in the Gaza Strip, amidst an Israeli operation to quell rocket fire and destroy underground smuggling tunnels. An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral at Har Herzl on July 23. I cannot imagine more than a few actually knew Max. Why did so many people show up?
To some degree I think the answer to this is found at the beginning of the book of Lamentations which we read on Tisha B’Av. There we read:
How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. ( Eichah 1:1-2)
Hamas clearly lost the military war, but I am not sure their goal was ever to win. Their goal seemed to be to kill Jews or get Jews to kill Palestinians. We have yet to see the full extent of damage and harm inflicted on their people. No one else stepped up to neutralize Hamas and liberate the Palestinian people. Israel was alone. For these demented terrorists this as a victory. In terms of the media Hamas seems to have done very well. Israel is alone and there are none among all of the nations to comfort her . Zion is the city that sits in solitary יָשְׁבָה בָדָד- – yashvah badad. Badad is the same word as Chayal Boded– a lone soldier. The nation mourns the loss of the Chayal Boded because together we are a nation that has experienced isolation throughout history. We are all alone together. May the memories all of our heroes be for a blessing.