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When an Israeli Soldier Dies in Battle…The Country Stops

On Friday, during the “peaceful” border protests in Gaza, Aviv Levi was gunned down by a Hamas sniper. At 21 years of age, his life was over. I want to help you feel the pain that we feel, here in Israel, when a soldier dies in battle.

Your Destiny

Unlike in the U.S., where I come from, from the time you can speak, you know that one day you will serve in the Israeli Defense Forces – and you are proud of that. Most young men want to serve in a combat unit—we call that, kravi.

Israeli men serve three years, and the women serve two. It is pounded into your psyche your whole life that one day you will serve. It is an honor. Beginning in your junior year of high school, you start filling out the forms, going to special meetings and preparing yourself mentally for the army. For those who seek to be in an elite unit, they take special courses during their senior year. I see them jogging with backpacks on the beach. Young people, 17 years old, getting in the best shape of their lives.

Follow Me

In most armies, the commanders stand back and command their soldiers: “Forward!” In the Israeli army, the most legendary phrase is “Acharai” or “Follow me.” Israeli commanders lead the way into the battle.

In 1948, a solider was shot in the eye during the War of Independence. As he lay on the ground dying, he heard over the radio, “We are coming!”

Twenty-three men under the command of Nahum Arieli arrived on the scene, and platoon commander Shimon Alfassi yelled, while under fire: “Privates retreat! Commanders cover them!” —Times of Israel

Many of those commanders died that day, and many believe that was the day that the “Acharai” principle was birthed. Soldiers know that their commanders are willing to die for them. And these bonds last forever in a small country, where you maintain contact the rest of your life.

They are all our sons and daughters

Every one of my daughters’ friends went into the army. Our soldiers are not people we don’t know, going to a foreign country, but they are our children who come home for Shabbat dinner and, then, sleep until 4:00pm on Saturday.  They go out with their friends, only to lug a massive backpack to the train or bus station Sunday morning, heading back to base.

My daughter went to school with Nissim Sean Carmeli. They had something in common, both being American immigrants, and were friends. On July 19, he was killed in the 2014 war in Gaza, during a shootout.

There had been concerns that the lone soldier, who split his time between [Israel] and South Padre Island, Texas, where his Israeli parents live, wouldn’t have enough people paying their final respects at his funeral. But, since he was a huge fan of Maccabi Haifa, the soccer team posted a photo of Carmeli on its Facebook page after his death, asking fans to go so that his funeral wouldn’t be deserted. —Times of Israel

The Soccer team provided two buses to bring people home from the funeral. However, 20,000 Israelis showed up to honor him. Someone wrote a song about him:

“Yesh lcha shtey achayot, v’20,000 achim.” “You have two sisters and 20,000 brothers.”


In most countries, you go off to war. In this country, you travel an hour and a half south or north to go to war. Gaza is an hour from my apartment in Tel Aviv. During the 2014 conflict, after the first Israeli soldiers died, Israeli citizens poured into the south to support the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). I will never forget going to visit my daughter at her base near Gaza and seeing rockets flying over my head.

My niece hands out popsicles to soldiers

One farm had been turned overnight into a R&R station for weary IDF soldiers with massages, hamburgers, salads, ice cream, haircuts and more. I walked around, amazed at the hundreds of non-soldiers who had come down to serve. On another occasion, Elana and I (along with some others) went all the way to the front lines to hand out coffee, underwear and sweets. We went from tank to tank, blessing these young men.

In the midst of the Gaza 2014 war, a family visits there son near the front lines.

Elana with soldiers on the Gaza border in 2009. We brought all kinds of food, coffee, underwear and socks.

see more more picture of distribution of goods to soldiers at