Tens of Thousands of Israelis Attend Funeral for Lone IDF Soldiers

by Molly Wharton

Tens of thousands of Israelis came together to mourn two Americans who died fighting for Israel in the Gaza Strip this week.

Los Angeles native Max Steinberg, 24, and Texan Sean Carmeli, 21, both joined the Israel Defense Forces as one of the thousands of “lone soldiers,” foreign volunteers who volunteer to serve Israel despite having no family in the country. The two U.S. citizens were among 13 Israeli soldiers killed Sunday in the first major ground battle between Israel and Hamas. 

With no family members nearby, there were concerns that the lone soldiers’ funerals wouldn’t be well attended, according to the Times of Israel. But 20,000 Israelis came to Carmeli’s funeral on Monday, and 30,000 attended Steinberg’s funeral Wednesday. 

Breitbart notes that the large attendance is especially remarkable considering that the constant threat of rocket attacks on Israel makes traveling and gathering in large crowds very risky. 

Carmeli was avid fan of Israel’s Maccabi Haifa soccer team, and when a picture of him with the team flag emerged on social media, team officials encouraged fans on their Facebook page to attend his funeral, Haaretz reported. The team also provided buses to transport mourners to the city center after the funeral, which took place in Haifa. 

“This is the best example of what the people of Israel can be,” Yaakov Danon, the head of the Israeli immigration ministery’s Unit for Immigrant Soldiers, told Haartez. “In times of trouble, we bind together. This is our tradition, our narrative. A boy like Sean expresses values we all admire – loyalty, a willingness to give to his people, openness, warmth, caring. That’s why so many different people – religious and secular and Haredim, young and old — are all here.”