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They say that twins have an inner feeling one about the other. Dara Levin, age 22 from Philadelphia, says that such a feeling existed under special circumstances between herself and Michael, her twin brother. Already two weeks ago, when Michael arrived for his last visit to the U.S.A., she felt it had been their last meeting. “I simply knew that something was going to happen. We drove him to the airport’ and I knew it was the last time I would see him”, she said on Friday, in the Plaza-Crown Hotel at Jerusalem, which has been transformed into the Shiva house for the family. “During the night before his death, I saw myself sitting Shiva. These are things which should be said in silence in order not to alarm the parents and because it is frightening”.
Staff-Sergeant Michael Levin, age 22, fell in battle at Aita al-Shaab in South Lebanon and was brought for burial last Thursday, the 9th of Av, 5766, the Fast of Tisha b’Av, (August 3, 2006), to the military section at the cemetery of Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. His family arrived from Philadelphia, leaving the moment they got the horrendous message. Last Saturday evening they flew back home, where they will make another memorial ceremony and sit Shiva on their son who chose to dedicate and sacrifice his life to the State of Israel. Many who arrived at the funeral did not even know the soldier. Something in the story about the Jewish-American young man who insisted on being enlisted in the paratroopers’ combat unit of the IDF, instead of attending college like all his friends in the United States, who was prepared to do everything for Israel, and in the end even paid the highest price, which can be paid — his life — managed to touch many Israelis who maybe are not accustomed anymore to see such pure Zionism.
Michael left his parents, Mark and Harriet, an older sister Alisa and a twin sister Dara. They do not have any relatives or acquaintances in Israel.
In the hotel room everybody wears the Israeli paratroopers’ badge on their torn shirts, a symbol of their grief. They try to hear as many stories as they can from the Israeli acquaintances of Michael and from IDF soldiers, the Manpower Branch Commander, Elazar Stern, among them, who came to comfort the family.
It is a family who doesn’t have the Israeli “bereavement pattern; no one served in the Army, no ceremonies on Memorial Day. They will also not develop a tradition of going to their son’s grave every Friday. The Levin family members have experienced Israel through the rare pure and immense Zionism of their beloved son Michael, and through his death, they will discover the world of bereavement which exists in Israel. In the meantime they gather email addresses of Michael’s friends and coordinate times for the monthly remembrance gathering, together with the representatives of the Army Manpower Branch.
He Dreamed of Raising a Family in Israel
Michael, the family says, loved Israel with all his soul and with all his might since he was 13 years old. “It is the only thing he adhered to since childhood” says Alisa. “He always talked about this. I fully supported him. He loved it and the Army made him happy. I’m proud of him, of his sacrificing his life for the State of Israel.”.
Michael was born in Philadelphia. In his childhood and youth he studied in Jewish educational institutions and participated every year in the summer camp “Ramah”. At the age of 18, he arrived in Israel to participate in a course for olim (immigrants to Israel) “Nativ”. Afterwards, he enlisted in the 890 regiment of the paratroopers. Because he arrived as a “lone soldier”, he was adopted by Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi and also for a time by Kibbutz Saad. In the past months he lived together with friends in an apartment in Pisgat Zeev, Jerusalem. His family members went there after his death, to gather last reminiscences and remnants of memoirs from Michael. They will donate the main part of his property to the lone soldiers. His family said yesterday that he even dreamed of a military career and also of raising a family with an Israeli wife.
Michael’s parents have hardly slept during the past two weeks and were terrified and very worried since Michael shortened his visit in the States when he heard that his military unit, regiment 890 of the paratroopers, had entered Lebanon during the war. He immediately decided to return to Israel and join his comrades. “We were very close to each other, and he used to tell me everything. The past two weeks were very tense. Our parents used to call me in the middle of the night to ask if I’ve heard something from Michael”, says Alisa.
”I hope that his dedication will be an inspiration to other soldiers”, says Mark with reddened eyes, wearing a big red cap which proudly has a knitted symbol of the paratroopers on it. He received it from Michael. The family is not religious but belongs to the Conservative congregation in Philadelphia. The rabbi of the congregation delivered the bitter message to Harriet about the tragedy. Harriet, who since her son was enlisted in the IDF, has had no peace, still finds it hard to believe that her son fell in battle. “All during that day I had a bad feeling and stress. I didn’t sleep the night before. Everybody felt that something is happening; my mother also had a nightmare. When we departed two weeks ago, I cried, simply because I knew it was the last time that I will see him”.
Harriet first came to Israel to celebrate her honeymoon in 1973. Since then she has been in love with Israel, but the thought that her son served in the Israeli army caused her many sleepless nights since the day he immigrated to Israel. “I’ve felt what he felt because I love the State of Israel’ but I am a mother, so I was very worried. I’ve tried not to think about the possibility of death, because I would go mad and would make him go crazy as well”.
He Had No Fears
A few days ago the heart of the Levin family missed a beat, when in one of the news broadcasts, they saw a soldier who resembled Michael, being evacuated from the battlefield on a stretcher. “We thought Michal was the wounded soldier. So we called him in the middle of the night and woke him up. The following day he contacted me and screamed, “You worry too much and I shall be fine.” We told him that we understand him and that we love him”. This was the last conversation with Michael.
During the same day, 24 hours before he was killed, Michael called up his sisters. He talked with Alisa and left a message for Dara: “I am entering Lebanon. This is a war. It is crazy what is happening here. In case I shall not talk to you again, I love you and miss you and wish you success and a healthy and happy life.”
“It is indeed as if he knew this was the time to separate”, Dara says. She heard the message only after she already knew that her twin brother had been killed. Dara is also the only member of the family who admits that she had some resistance to Michael’s aliyah (immigration to Israel) and his draft into the IDF.
“I knew that the fighting in Lebanon and the service in the Israeli army were dangerous. I was afraid that he didn’t think enough. After all, he left behind a whole family. It was too emotional for me. I am a little angry that he did this and it cost him his life, but on the other hand I am happy for him, because this is what he wanted to do. I am proud of him. There were mixed feelings about his strong will to immigrate to Israel and serve in the army. We understood his dream and his love for Israel, but when he fought in the other side of the world, it was frightening”.
And did Michael talk about a fear of death during his military service?
“I don’t think he had any fears, and even if he did, his commitment to the army and to Israel overcame any fear”.
He Admired Yoni Netanyahu
There is no doubt that the short life of Michael would have been very different if he had followed the classical American life pattern. “We hoped that he first would go to college, but he insisted that by then, he would probably be too old to serve a full service in the IDF”, tells Hariett. “He talked about the fact that his American friends from Philadelphia couldn’t understand him”, adds Dara, “that he lived in a totally different world, and those in college cannot understand what he felt”.
His sister Alisa, 26 years old, works a few floors below Harriet, in the same office building. A few days ago, she was asked to go up to her mother’s office to help her with the computer. When she opened the room, she saw the Israeli consul and the rabbi of the congregation and understood at once. “We all knew he was in Lebanon, fighting, and it all was very tense. Even if I knew that this was what happened, I wouldn’t stop him from making aliyah. It was his passion, his life dream. Why to take that dream from him? Michael didn’t die in a car accident or any other meaningless death. I know that if he had been given the possibility to choose how to die, he would have chosen to die at war for the existence of Israel “.
Harriet used to visit her son every six months. Now, she is sure, she will come more often. “He arrived in Israel without knowing anyone,” she recalls. “I was afraid that he was all alone. He told me that he used to go to the Western Wall, and people used to invite him to make the Sabbath with them. Not that I understood how he goes to be with strangers. But he insisted that Israel is not like in America, that there is always someone and you are never alone”. He was the single brother, and this is no doubt, something very special”, Hariett says and tears fill her eyes, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone like I loved Michael, in spite of his being naughty and stubborn, which can be very frustrating for a mother. I know he was aware of the risks involved in the army service, and he walked in there with open eyes. He knew what he had to do. If he could have left a message, it would be to the soldiers, who should fight harder, make more efforts, and give more than 100 percent. He knew how much I loved him. If I could only say something else to him, I would tell him how proud we are of him.”
Also, his father, Mark, who listens earnestly to every person who enters the door, tries to depart from his beloved son. “The more people talk, we are amazed hearing about our son. Hundreds of stories which we didn’t know about Michael’s life here. Things we were not aware of, and it helps. I wouldn’t have told him anything which I didn’t have the time to, because every time we spoke, I told him again and again how much I love him and that I am proud of him. Not everyone has the privilege of hearing the same thing from his son, but I did hear this back from Michael”.
Before we leave, Mark remembers suddenly that Michael had a hero, a model to follow. “He all the time spoke about Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu and read about him. He admired his image. Now he is the same as Netanyahu, a real Israeli hero”.
Pictures of the Israel Defense Forces
The above text was wirtten by Efrat Zemer and published in “Maariv”, “The Magazine”, August 6th, 2006, translated by Ada Holtzman and edited by Rachel
Cohen. The source webpage of the text above can be found by clicking here
Please visit http://www.aheroinheaven.com/ to learn more about Michael Levin and to obtain a DVD presentation to screen at your local Jewish Community
Michael’s Family (Mother, Harriet Levin) contact email is Harriet@AHeroInHeaven.com
Please feel free to contact the Levin Family to write them a letter on how much their beloved son Michael means to you.
For more information on the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, please visit their website at the link http://www.lonesoldiercenter.com/
A Song Dedicated to Michael Levin
Press the play button below to start a song dedicated to Michael Levin
Refrain Your Voice from Weeping by Idan Raichel
English Translation below
For in the nights your sleep wanders
And every dream is of terror
So tilt your ears to quiet
All mercy and kindness
Will rise, here it comes
Because your soul is kept for Him [God]
Indeed the hour is close
until robbed in your arms
He will fall at the end of the road
When they return to their borders
Just refrain your voice from weeping
And your eyes from a tear
Because the gate will open
And He will come storming through
When they [The Remnant of Israel] return to their borders
Up to the streams of water
Through what is left of your strength
If He will return us then we will return
Refrain your voice from Weeping
There is hope for your end
Hebrew Transliteration below:
Ki baleilot sh’natech nodedet
Vechol chalom hu lemora
Teti az et oznech lasheket
Kol chesed rachamim
Od ya’aleh hineh hu ba
Ki bishvilo nafshech nishmeret
Harei k’reva hi hasha’ah
Ad sheshadud bizr’ootayich
Yipol besof haderech
Rak mini kolech mibechi
Ki hasha’ar yipatach lo
Veyavo bo bise’arah
Ad el nachalei hamayim
Derech she’erit kochech
Im yashivenu az nashuva
Mini kolrch mibechi
Yesh tikva la’achritech
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This post was updated last September 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm Pacific Standard Time
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