Over 30,000 people paid their respects to lone soldier Sgt. Max Steinberg at his funeral on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem this morning (see video). Steinberg was killed battling Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 20 and was among the 13 IDF soldiers who were killed when a Hamas anti-tank rocket struck their armored vehicle.
Steinberg, like the 2,700 lone soldiers who have come from abroad and are currently serving in the IDF, had no family in Israel. The Los Angeles native first came to Israel in 2012 on a Birthright Israel trip and joined the IDF’s elite Golani brigade six months later.
Because he was a lone soldier, Steinberg was assisted by the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, an organization whose mission is to help lone soldiers during their IDF service.
Josh Flaster, the National Director of the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, who knew Steinberg, told Tazpit News Agency that it has been a very difficult time for the center, which serves as a warm-knit community for IDF soldiers alone in Israel.
“The Center in this kind of situation is working around the clock, getting our lone soldiers the assistance they need in such times – everything from clean socks, underwear and food to words of encouragement to lone soldiers right before they head out to Gaza.”
“Some of our lone soldiers have lost their best friends on the battlefield during this war; some have been wounded. We have over 250 volunteers, most of who were former lone soldiers themselves and have fought in battles, who are talking to the soldiers and helping in any way they can,” said Flaster.
“For example, wounded soldiers carried off the field, do not have their phones or wallets with them. We go down the hospitals and give these lone soldiers pocket money and anything else they need, because their families aren’t here to do that for them.”
The center also makes sure that proper respect is paid to the lone soldiers who have been killed in battle, organizing buses to funerals and sending volunteers to the mourning families coming from abroad.
On Monday, June 21, over 20,000 mourners gathered together in Haifa for the funeral of Sean Carmeli, a lone soldier from Texas who was also killed in Sunday’s fighting, alongside Steinberg.
Former lone soldier Benji Davis, who made aliyah from Los Angeles, attended Max Steinberg’s funeral today and spoke of the brotherhood that is felt among the lone soldiers serving in the IDF and their unique unity with the Jewish world. “Max’s passing reminds us that the IDF is not just the Israel Defense Forces, but it is the army for all the Jewish people, an army that defends Jews from all over the world,” Davis told Tazpit.
“I didn’t know Max personally but I realized today what it means to be fully Israeli. As someone said at the funeral – to be Israeli is to cry for someone that you never knew and who feels like your family. That is exactly how I felt today.”
“It was incredible to see tens of thousands of others feel that way too,” added Davis.