NOTE: A memorial service for Michael Levin will take place at Congregation Tifereth Israel, 2909 Bristol Road, Bensalem, Pennsylvania, 19020 on Monday, August 7, 2006 at 7:30 pm. The memorial service is open to the entire community.
Three soldiers lost their lives battling Hizbullah in southern Lebanon on Tuesday: First Sgt. Michael Levin, St.-Sgt. Yonatan Einhorn, and Lt. Ilan Gabbai.
Originally from Philadelphia, Michael Levin, 21, had been living in Jerusalem for the past five months. He made aliya as a lone soldier when he was 18 and lived on Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi before enlisting in the army.
"Michael was visiting his parents in the US when fighting erupted up north. He decided to cut his vacation short and come back to join his platoon," Tziki Aud, head of the Jewish Agency's information center for new immigrants, told The Jerusalem Post.
One of Michael's friends recalled a phone conversation he had with him about a week ago.
"I'm not worried about dying. I'm worried about what it would do to my family," the friend quoted Michael as saying.
At first, he was given duties on the home front. "Michael fought this decision. He wanted to go up to Lebanon. He got his wish, as we all know now all too well," Aud said.
Michael was part of the Yavne group when he first entered ulpan. According to Aud, "He had this bug for Israel ever since he was 15. A true Zionist and patriot."
"Though I am not sure how his family reacted when he told them he was cutting his vacation short to return to the army, they were very supportive of his decision to make aliya and join the Paratroopers Brigade. I met his mother here when Michael completed the difficult training period. It was evident she was very proud of him."
Aud described Michael as a special and humble human being. "I am certain that if he was to hear all this praise, he would say it was all nonsense."
"I always called him the 'small socialist'. He was not a big guy. In fact, the first time he parachuted, he strayed off course because he was not heavy enough. The next time he jumped off a plane, they attached weights to his parachute," Aud recalled, "What else can I say? He was a good kid."
A very close friend of Michael told the Post, "This is overwhelming. This is unreal. All he wanted was to do the best for the country and his friends. Why do we have to lose the good ones?"
"Mike left an impression on everyone he met. He was very personable. I am sure that if you would go to Zion Square in Jerusalem right now you would find a thousand people who knew him," he continued.
The two met in uplan and were also on the same kibbutz together. "We never really talked about war and combat. That's why this is such a shock. It's a tragedy."
Yossi Katz, an educator at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel issued the following statement after news of Michael's death was released: "It is with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart that I inform you of the death of my beloved former student First Sgt. Michael Levine who was killed in action yesterday in Lebanon.
Michael, or as I lovingly called him "Mel", attended the February 2001 session of USY High at the Alexander Muss High School In Israel. As a fellow Philly boy & a member Hagesher Region USY, Mike & I shared special bonds together and became dear friends. He was an A+ student & human being with a passionate love for Israel & Judaism.
"Mike had a great sense of humor and was one of the most loving, caring, kind human beings I ever met. He loved sports and was a big fan of Philly teams. In our many serious discussions together, Mike expressed his love for Israel and said that he felt he had an obligation to serve his people. Mike was a true man of action and followed up on his Zionist ideals. "
"Five years ago we stood together on Mt. Herzl during the last day of USY High, at the grave of Yoni Netanyahu and talked about Yoni's legacy to us of Jewish pride & strength and commitment to the People & State of Israel. Like Yoni, Michael embodied all these qualities. Like Yoni he fell as a hero in defense of Am Yisrael. Yoni once wrote that he saw himself as a link in the chain of Jewish existence and Israel's independence. Michael Levine died as a hero in an effort to strengthen that chain. His legacy to us demands we never let that chain break."
"Michael, we love you and miss you and will try to live up to the beautiful ideals and values you lived and died by. Your memory will always be a blessing."
Michael's family is now heading to Jerusalem, where he will be buried on Mt. Herzl at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
He is survived by his parents and two sisters.