Some 20,000 mourners turned up at the funeral for Sean Carmeli, an IDF soldier killed in the line of duty in Gaza.
Carmeli was what is known as a “lone soldier,” an American who moved to Israel and joined the military with no family nearby.
As a lone soldier, Carmeli’s funeral would have normally included very few attendees, as Jewish funerals take place so soon after death.
However, a major outpouring of sympathy and gratitude for the young man’s sacrifice resulted in tens of thousands of visitors to the funeral in Haifa this evening.
“The heart of the entire nation is with the families of the fallen. We feel your pain. We bow our head to your sons who fell so that we can continue living here. On behalf of the Government and the entire People of Israel, I would like to express the deep pain that we feel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.
Maccabi Haifa, a popular soccer team in Israel, put out a call for funeral attendees today, in a Facebook post that read: “This is a request from us to Maccabi Haifa fans and this is your chance to make a big order. Sean Carmeli killed last night was a lone soldier and we don’t want his funeral is blank. Tonight will be his funeral at the military cemetery in Neve David in Haifa at 9 pm. Let’s give respects to hero who died so that we could live. It’s the least we can do for him and for our people.”
The post had received more than 25,000 “likes” by 6 pm EST today.
Carmeli, 21, held dual US-Israeli citizenship and hailed from South Padre Island, Texas. He was part of a team of seven Israeli soldiers who were all killed when an explosive device reportedly detonated on their armored vehicle, according to the official IDF blog.
Sean, known in Hebrew as Nissim, was born to Israeli parents—Alon and Dalya Carmeli—who had moved to the island in pursuit of business opportunities. With time, along with his parents and two sisters, he reconnected with his Jewish roots and began living a Torah lifestyle.
“Sean was a gentle kind boy,” says Rabbi Asher Hecht, director of Chabad of the South Padre Island, who met the boy in summer of 2006 when he and a friend ran a day camp for local Jewish children. “He was the oldest of the local boys in our camp and was a sweet and kind example to everyone else.
“Sean Carmeli is a hero of the Jewish people,” said Hecht. “Like Rabbi Akiva and so many others before him, he gave his life to protect the survival of the Jewish people.”