For two Americans, service to Israel ends in tragedy

By Hillel Kuttler, JTA, July 22, 2014

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 Facebook messages with his friend Ian Benisti, a U.S. Marine reservist who was visiting Israel 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 as part of its ongoing Operation Protective Edge.

Carmeli, 21, and another American, Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old from Woodland Hills, Calif., were among the 13 Israeli soldiers — all members 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 was raised 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 parents 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,” said Aaron Edelman, a Baltimore native who knew Carmeli from their Golani service.

Benisti, whose father lives in Israel and who coincidentally 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 nonprofit, 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 Americans’ 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.

A vigil in Steinberg’s memory was held Sunday night at a park near where he grew up. Derakhshannia said he and Steinberg often went skateboarding and bicycling there.

“It was an emotional gathering,” 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 recreational football games but would always bounce right up.

“He was a tough, tough kid,” said Derakhshannia, who knew Steinberg since they were middle-school classmates. “Max would never hold a grudge. He’d always be smiling.”

Derakhshannia, who identifies himself as a non-practicing Muslim and whose own parents are emigres from 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."


Wes Sesniak: Please don't call them Americans they demonstrated their allegiance by choosing foreign uniform. A loyalty to the nation that they were born to and dwell among it is not exactly their trademark, no sir but backstabbing is, really ,...

Marlene Langert: I do notknow who you are and I do not want to ever know. However your replies above prove what was said about you. THese two brave young men have not died in vain and will forever be remembered for their courage. You will not as you have no courage and no leadership.

Jeff Blankfort: Marlene Langert They went to Gaza to kill Palestinians. Nothing brave about that. Just like German soldiers in Occupied Europe in WW2, except your dead "heroes" chose to be there. The German soldiers had no choice. What the governments of both countries had in common was their belief in their own racial superiority and the use of collective punishment against those who opposed them. In 1937, a Nazi SS Officer, Leopold von Mildenstein visited Palestine and became so enamored with the Zionist project that he had a medallion made with a swastika on one side and the Magen David on the other. I'd call that prescient. You can't make this stuff up. You can Google it.

Paul Hatgil: Wes Sesniak - Those Americans went to Israel to assist those that are committing Genocide. Is that courage? Killing children - is that courage?

Leonard Goldstein: By Wes Sesniak's illogic, those Americans who went to fight in the French military in World War I before the U.S. entered the war where not Americans. There was even an entire squadron of American pilots who were called the Lafayette Escadrille. Nor were the Americans who served in the Canadian and British armed forces during WWII before the U.S. entered that war true Americans. The Americans serving in the RAF had their own squadron called the Eagle Squadron.

Jeff Blankfort: Goldstein. Those American Jewish turncoats went over to join the Israel military whose only job is to maintain what the civilized world perceives as an illegal occupation of another people's land, and they went into Gaza to murder Palestinians. Those Americans who volunteered to fight against the Nazis before the US entered the war saw that as a fight for justice, as did those who went to fight and die in Spain, many of whom were Jewish, in that country's civil war. They came to be called "premature anti-fascists." To compare these young misguided young American Jewish chauvinists with them is an insult to history and to your own intelligence.

Florette Small: Blessings on those 2 brave Americans/Israelites. They dwell on thrones with the Almighty.

Sam Spade: Actually, they roast in hell for joining an army of child killers. We won't miss them here in the USA. They were rotten Americans anyway. Patriotic Americans join the American military. Hopefully their entire tribe will make aliyah soon so that Americans might live in peace and throw the Zionist from our backs.

Marlene Langert: Sam Spade What shame you bring to the name of Sam Spade. Obama is cutting our military to pieces . These young men would not have been sent anywhere they could have been of help Obama is getting rid of USA top officers. We do much good serving in the Israeli army. We help cut down the number of terrorists who would plan to come to destroy the USA. Or are you not aware enough of what is going on in the world to see that? Do you not know that the Hamas puts the children in the way on purpose. Israel and the USA must defend our own children. Obama is certainly not doing that.

Jeff Blankfort: Marlene Langert Please don't pretend that you have any concern for this country. No more than those in the Jewish establishment who have kept the lid on the story of Israel's attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 which took the lives of 34 US sailors and wounded 171 more. Please don't give me the lying Israli line about that since I have known some of the Liberty survivors. Rather than retaliating in kind and teaching Israel a lesson, LBJ, who was embedded with the Israel Lobby, called off US jets that were on their way to defend the attacked ship because, he told the commander of the 5th fleet, "I don't want to embarrass an ally."

Sam Spade: Jeff Blankfort Agreed, Marlene is a typical traitor jew. Using the colors of a chameleon, she pretends to be an American as she complains about the Nativity display in front of some rural courthouse. Demands unlimited immigration through American borders. Happy as hell to see Christian sons of America die for some war cooked up by zionists. Happy as hell to see Christian American pockets picked to support the Israeli apartheid regime. Thinks we all have goyish kopfs and can't discern the true nature of the jew. Reality will soon catch up with Marlene and the other zionists. They have bit off more than they can chew. Real Americans are increasingly catching on.

Kader Kadero: All those jews hatred is triggered by their reading the TALMUD. Jews consider non-jews as slaves and animals. We - non-jews- all we've got to do is to obey them and killing a non-jew is permitted in their religion. That's why Isarel is killng babies, women, old people in Palestine.

Kikelon B: Scurry, vermin.

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