Today is Yom Hazikaron, Israeli’s Memorial Day. I’d like to take the opportunity to tell our readers about the life of a young man named Michael Levin. While some people may know his story, it cannot be told enough times.
Michael Levin grew up in the world of Camp Ramah and USY. He was determined at a young age to make aliyah and serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Though he was small in stature, friends and family say he was big in heart.
Michael eventually joined an elite paratrooper unit of the IDF. During the 2006 war with Lebanon, Michael was visiting the US when he saw the fighting on TV. He cut his trip short and went back to serve with his unit, though he didn’t have to. Michael Levin was killed August 1, 2006 in clashes with Hezbullah in the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab.
He was 22 years old.
Thousands of people attended his funeral. Most of those did not know him, but were moved by the way he lived his life.
His story has been recorded in the documentary
A Hero In Heaven
. It has been shown across the country in educational settings, and for the past two years on Channel in Israel for Yom Hazikaron. I had the privilege to see it earlier this year.
Growing up and throughout college, I was what one would consider an outspoken Israel-advocate. I lead the Students for Israel group on campus, hosted programs for the school, wrote op-eds in the school paper, and traveled to Israel frequently. But after four years of Jewish communal agencies competing for my time, trying to convince me that their view of being “pro-Israel” was correct, I was exhausted.
While I never forgot my affinity for Israel, I didn’t want to talk about Israel, read the newspaper or attend any type of events.
Yet watching this movie about a young adult, whose background was much like mine, touched me. Through my tears, I was reminded that supporting Israel is a task that is our’s as Jews and is a task that we can never abandon.
And while many of us in the US don’t commemorate Yom Hazikaron, today I am taking some time to reflect on the life of Michael Levin, and the thousands of others who died protecting Israel.
I hope you will too.
Pictures from Michael’s funeral can be found here.
News stories about him can be found here.
Pronounced: a-LEE-yuh for synagogue use, ah-lee-YAH for immigration to Israel, Origin: Hebrew, literally, “to go up.” This can mean the honor of saying a blessing before and after the Torah reading during a worship service, or immigrating to Israel.