Israel mourns for her sons.
This past Saturday night, after the Shabbat was over and we began a new week (“there was evening and there was morning, one day), Israeli troops were battling in Shejaiya, one of the major Hamas, terrorist strongholds in Gaza. An armored personnel carrier (“APC”) was struck by an anti-tank missile, killing First Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli and others. They were among the 13 of the soldiers, all members of the elite Golani unit, who were killed that night.
Four Israeli soldiers had already been killed. But, the news that an additional 13 were killed throughout the night of fighting was a jolt to the nation. It was a major loss for a small country like Israel. Everyone felt the pain of loss. Slowly, the identities of the slain soldiers were released and they included two who also held American citizenship, Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Woodland Hills, California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, who had lived in South Padres Island, Texas, where his parents still reside. Both Steinberg and Carmeli were considered as “lone soldiers”, meaning, generally speaking, that they do not have parents to go home to when they are on a break from the army.
Efforts were made by some to portray Shejaiya as a peaceful “neighborhood” community until the present fighting erupted. In reality, however, Shejaiya is one of Hamas’ active locations, from which over 140 rockets were fired into Israel in 13 days. The openings to at least 10 terror tunnels are located there, tunnels that Hamas used for the purpose of smuggling weapons, for launching missiles at Israel civilians and for infiltrating into Israel to attempt to slaughter civilians communities and to kidnap Israelis. Rocket launchings against Israel took place from a mosque, a hospital and a children’s playground, while a rocket facility was also located in a cemetery – all within the confines of Shejaiya. Notwithstanding Israel’s attempts to reduce the number of civilian casualties, the residents of Shejaiya were ordered by Hamas not to leave and were used by Hamas as human shields.
The above is mentioned as background information. The fighting in Shejaiya continues, along with the missiles fired from Gaza.
The funeral of Max Steinberg is set for tomorrow, Wednesday, on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem. The funeral of Nissim Sean Carmeli took place Monday night, in Haifa.
“Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral.”
I left for the funeral at 10:00 p.m., a 10-12 minute drive. I prayed as I got into the car, “Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral. Let them come and honor this son of Israel as he is laid into the ground. Let his family know that although he was considered a ‘lone soldier’, he was not alone.” When I arrived in the area, the police had already set up barricades and cars seemed to come from every direction. It took me half an hour to find a space at a distance of a 20-minute walk from the cemetery. A few people here and some there, we were all headed in the same direction. As we got closer to the cemetery, the crowds grew larger.
It was already packed when I arrived. I ended up close to the place where the service was being held, but I couldn’t see anything. I really didn’t need to see the event. I’ve seen too many of them. I’ve listened to too many eulogies, with the broken hearts of family and friends and the messages interrupted by crying. I’ve listened to too many fathers reciting “Kadish” (Aramaic for “holy”, a hymn of praises of God that is part of the Jewish prayer service, as well as at funerals). I’ve heard too many local officials and politicians praising a deceased person, whom they never met. I didn’t need to see the ceremony. There were loudspeakers that would broadcast the event. I looked around and saw that people were still coming, a seemingly never ending stream of people. Some tried to get closer to the platform and managed to slightly push (but, not offensively) others to get to a better vantage point. There were no arguments, no shoving and no yelling. Just a multitude of people, coming to pay their respects to Sean. There were men and women, soldiers from every type of military unit, those with rank and those without, police, teenagers and septuagenarians, religious and secular, Jew and non-Jew, all who came “from Dan to Beer Sheva” to respect and honor and pay their last respects to a “lone soldier”, who united a nation. He was everyone’s son, everyone’s brother. He gave his life so that we, as a nation, would live. A national hero, who was not known, except by a handful of those who came. When it seemed that there was no more room to move forward, people somehow still managed to work their way towards the front.
As the vehicle bringing the coffin arrived at the entrance to the cemetery around 11:30 p.m., the person in charge of the funeral service requested that the crowd “make a path” for the coffin and family. Within seconds, people moved to the sides, clearing a path for the pallbearers and honor guard. It was like watching the Red Sea being divided, only with walls of people, instead of water. We were about 8-10 rows deep and although I couldn’t get close to the platform where the service was to be held, I was in the front row of the wall of people. I saw the dignitaries pass by, followed by the pallbearers with the coffin, draped with the Israeli flag, followed by members of Sean’s family. The crowd, which had kept their conversations on a low volume, was visibly moved. Crying could be heard from many. The heat and the long wait began to take its toll on some and the paramedics were kept busy, taking care of some who became dehydrated or who passed out.
The ceremony continued. The coffin was lowered into the ground and covered over. Wreaths were placed on the fresh grave by representatives of two municipalities. Eulogies were given. The command “fire” was sounded three times, as the flash from the rifles punctuated the night. The ceremony was over and people began to make their way to the exit, slowly, with a sense of walking together as family. In the midst of the multitude, I met a brother-in-the-Lord, an Arab-Israeli, native of Haifa, who pastors a Messianic Jewish congregation here. We’ve known each other about 30 years and joked as we walked, saying that we tend to meet each other most of the time while attending a funeral. His children all served or serve in the IDF.
It was reported that over 30,000 people had attended the funeral of someone they didn’t know, someone that they wanted to honor, someone who enabled Israel to demonstrate how much it is a community that values life and mourns with those who mourn. We wept yesterday many times during the funerals held for our sons who were no more. We wept for a “lone son”, whose death while defending this country drew us together as his family. We will weep again tomorrow for our other sons. This we know, that weeping may last for the night, but there is a shout of joy that comes in the morning (Psalm 30.5).
As of this writing, 28 of our sons have given their lives during the 15 days of this latest war. All who serve give something, while some who serve give everything. May their memories be blessed.
God is watching over Israel
No matter how we look at it, the fact that almost 1,300 rockets and mortars have been fired at us from the Gaza Strip, with minimal loss of life, is nothing but a miracle. Property has been destroyed and today a community on the outskirts of Tel Aviv saw a missile land at a private home. Shock, but no loss of life. Direct hits occurred in recent days in different communities here, but people walked away from them.
When our enemies complain about us, we should take their words with a grain of salt, so to speak. We know that lying is a way of life for them and that the lies are intended to help them win the war of public opinion. But, when a newspaper headline quotes a terrorist as saying that our “God changes the path of [their] rockets in mid-air” shouldn’t we pay attention? “Before they call, I will answer and while they are still speaking, I will hear [their prayers].” (Isaiah 65:24)
It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that “a miss is as good as a mile”. When a bullet penetrates a body, the location of it will often determine whether the person will live or die. The attached photo is of a bullet that was taken from the leg of someone we know and who often attends our congregation. He was wounded while fighting in the Gaza Strip. If the rifle that fired that bullet had been aimed an inch or so higher, it would have landed in his chest, instead of his leg. We are thankful that God spared his life and that he is receiving excellent medical treatment.
Politicians still pressure us, but the media is beginning to understand, somewhat.
On the one hand, many “leaders” tell us that they support our right to self-defence. Before that message sinks in, they add a “but”, which undermines everything they said immediately preceding that. The “but”, usually has a message of “restraint” built into it. Others simply ignore our right to to defend ourselves and get right into the civilian deaths that are taking place in the Gaza Strip, while ignoring that this is not a war of our choosing, but of necessity. We aren’t fighting because we want to kill “Palestinians”, but because we want to survive. The IDF is the most moral military in the world. We give every opportunity for civilians to get out of harm’s way. If they ignore our early warnings, they do so at their own peril. The Secretary General of the U.N. can get upset about what is happening in the Gaza Strip, but he has no right to tell us how to resolve the war. He may want a two-state solution, but just because that’s what happened in Korea doesn’t mean that it will happen here. I would urge him to spend a week in Sderot, or Ashdod, or Ashkelon, or Beer Sheva, or … or… when the sirens go off, and give him 15 seconds to find shelter. Then, let him come and tell us about those innocent civilians who are dying in a place from which the missiles are being launched against us. Oh, but he might not be able to get a flight to Israel right now.
But, talk show hosts and media are beginning to understand a bit about what is really happening here. They argue the case for Israel, without the “but”.
And when it comes to restraint, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. says that the IDF deserves the Nobel Peace Price for “unimaginable restraint“.
Airlines Cease Flights to Israel
When a Hamas rocket landed not far from Israel’s major airport in Tel Aviv, it didn’t take long for the U.S. F.A.A. to say that flights to Tel Aviv of all U.S. airlines are to be suspended for 24 hours. Others countries began to follow suit. They’re afraid that one of their planes might be hit. It is a war crime to target an international civilian airport. Could it be that the nations are beginning to wake up to the reality that there is a war going on over here and that we, not Hamas or the citizens of the Gaza Strip, are the target?
“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation…How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God. (Psalm 146:3, 5).
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,