Two of the 18 IDF soldiers killed during the weekend’s heavy fighting in Gaza were Americans who had recently immigrated to Israel and enlisted in the army.
Max Steinberg, 24, was one of 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed in Sunday’s major ground battle in Shejaiya. Steinberg, a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade, was originally from Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. His father told the Associated Press that after visiting Israel on a Birthright trip in the summer of 2012, Steinberg announced that he planned to join the IDF. He moved to Beersheba six months later.
“He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel. He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing,” Steinberg’s father said.
Steinberg was known for his loyalty to his fellow soldiers; during his time in the IDF, Steinberg used social media to encourage friends and family to donate to his unit, the Times of Israel reports.
His family is traveling to Israel today for the funeral.
On Sunday it was also announced that another American IDF soldier, Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, from South Padre Island, Texas, was killed in combat in Gaza. According to the Times of Israel, Carmeli moved to Israel four years ago; he went to high school in Raanana and then studied at a yeshiva in Jerusalem before joining the IDF, where he served in the Golani Brigade. Carmeli’s parents and two older sisters traveled to Israel upon hearing the news of his death.
Rabbi Asher Hecht, co-director of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, told the AP that Carmeli’s commander had said he didn’t need to participate in what would be his final operation in Gaza due to a foot injury, but Carmeli chose to join the operation anyway.
The U.S. State Department confirmed both deaths on Sunday.
Isabel Fattal, a former intern at Tablet Magazine, attends Wesleyan University.