Friday, August 04, 2006

Michael Levin - Hero

Associated Press

"Michael gave both body and soul to Israel." Rabbi Alan Silverstein

It's one thing to debate the Middle East war in the abstract. It's another thing entirely to have family and friends who live there. And it's just plain bone chilling to know someone who's been killed in that war.

I've been through this cracked looking glass once already this summer. My son and I came home from a visit to our family in Israel on July 13, just coincidentally the day the war started.

Three days later we had a death in the family. Not in Israel, but in Oregon of all places. My sister's husband was killed in a plane crash there on July 16.

We're still dealing with that. We're still debating the war in the Middle East. And we're getting more concerned about our family in Israel. They aren't in immediate danger. Yet. None of them is in the army. Yet. But it looks like it's only a matter of time.

So we follow the news closely. Mostly MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times and NBC Nightly News, our evening newscast of choice. We tune in with trepidation as the war gets bloodier. And every time the phone rings, we worry.

And then a local story we weren't expecting. A Bucks County boy (as a mother I have trouble thinking of him as a man, but he certainly acted like one and deserves the title), 22 year old Michael Levin died fighting for the Israeli army.

Michael Levin was my son's age. They both graduated high school in 2002. Different schools. But friendly rivals on the soccer field. Even back then Michael Levin was a tough kid ... in the right way. Determined. Dedicated. Decisive. And he had a plan.

Our son Michael went on to college. Michael Levin chose a different path. He committed himself to a life in Israel. And gave his life for that commitment.

We didn't know Michael or his family very well. But you don't have to know a child at all to feel his mother's excruciating pain over his death. His father's heartbreak. His sisters' anguish. His family's devastating sense of loss.

Michael Levin was a mensch. A good, decent person. A fighter ... for ideals, for freedom, for his heritage. He didn't just talk about supporting Israel -- he put his money where his mouth was. He moved there and joined the army as a paratrooper. One of the toughest assignments there is.

As he would have wanted, Michael Levin died for a righteous cause -- fighting Hezbollah. Even as we grieve his loss, we honor his singular dedication to his chosen homeland -- Israel.

Agree. Disagree. It doesn't matter. A young man is dead. If you're a Jew--and even if you're not--he died for you. He was buried Thursday, where he belonged, in Israel.

There's nothing abstract about that. It's cold, hard, terrible reality. Olev Ha'Shalom, Michael Levin. Rest in peace. And thank you.

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Blogger Puckpan said...

I would suggest that like most Jews he put the interests of Israel above those of America. But true or not, saying it would be anti-Semitic.

A lot of Americans have died for your war Sally. Collateral damage eh?

What a lovely coat his majesty is wearing today.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Sally Swift said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, above you will see anti-Semitism cloaked in passive agressive commentary.

Learn to recognize it, which shouldn't be hard. It's ugly as hell.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Stephen Minton said...

A beautifully written piece, straight from the heart.
With reference to the comment above, I don't think that America has a particular problem with anti-semitism, but rather a particular problem right now with Fear in all disguises. It's not mere happenstance, of course, that the people who fear Jews are the same people who fear Homosexuals and other easily identifiable minorities. These same people are all the while living in a world of happy absolutes and simplicity, of good and evil, in a country whose President declares to deafening applause : "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." So then it's Us and Them, that tired old tune yet again, and as so often in history the Jews are easily cast amongst Them. Anti-semitism is unique in that it's a game which the entire non-Jewish world is invited to play. Every race, nation and religion has feared the Jews at some time in history.
We're all guilty of fear and ignorance to varying degrees, of course, and we blame someone or other for that feeling of terror which rises in our throats as the world appears to turn too quickly, and as we feel the foundation of everything slipping away from under our feet.
It's ugly as hell, that's the truth.

8:52 PM  
Blogger MamaQ said...

I think Michael Levin deserves respect for following his heart and his conscience, and I grieve for his family's loss.

But I do wonder whether Mr. Levin would have answered his own country's call to arms. He was born and raised in the US, right?

And no, I'm not anti-Semitic, nor am I passive-agressive. I'm just an American wondering whether all of the American Jews who are fighting for Israel would fight for America.

It's a valid question, I think.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Sally Swift said...

First of all, Amy, of COURSE you're not anti-Semitic! As far as I'm concerned, asking thoughtful questions is just that ... thoughtful. Someone who thinks can't possibly be a bigot.

I believe Michael Levin was the kind of person who would have fought for America too. But I hope he wouldn't have had to go to Iraq, because that's a dirty stinking political war, not a battle for national survival.

Many Jews feel a strong connection with Israel as a personal, religious and historical homeland, just as I'm sure many Irish, Italians, etc. feel the same about the countries which formed their culture.

We have family members born in America who chose to move to Israel for the same reason Michael did: to live-and stand up for-intensely held commitments to faith and culture.

6:25 PM  

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