Pennsylvanians Mourn Hometown Soldier

By Matt Schuman

Published August 11, 2006, issue of August 11, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

NEWTOWN, Pa. — More than 1,200 men, women and children came together at Shir Ami, Bucks County Jewish Congregation in the Philadelphia suburbs on the evening of July 31 to demonstrate their support for the State of Israel. The evening’s most poignant moment came when a speaker recognized the presence of Mark and Harriet Levin, noting that their son, Michael, had immigrated to Israel and become a paratrooper in the Israeli army. The spontaneous standing ovation reduced Mom, who was wearing a paratrooper’s shirt, to tears.

Less than 24 hours later, Michael Levin, a first sergeant, was one of three Israeli soldiers killed when their platoon was hit by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile in the southern Lebanese town of Aita al-Shaab. Two days later, thousands attended his funeral in Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

On August 7, a mere eight days after the pro-Israel rally, an even larger crowd — estimated at 1,500 plus — again gathered at Shir Ami to memorialize a 22-year-old Israeli war hero from a quiet Bucks County, Pa., neighborhood known as Holland Acres. “It’s with all the love I have in my heart that I must now say farewell to my son,” said Mark Levin, the last of more than a dozen speakers who shared their thoughts with the overflowing crowd.

Those who knew him best described Michael Levin as warm, caring, considerate and, perhaps above all else, driven. By the time he was 16, they said, he already was planning to move to Israel and join the army.

Rabbi David Silverstein, a close family friend, noted that Levin wasn’t content to support the State of Israel and pledge allegiance to the Zionist ideal from the comfort of his suburban Philadelphia home. So after his 2002 graduation from Council Rock High School in Newtown, Pa., he immigrated to Israel. However, Levin wasn’t content to merely live in Israel; he wanted to defend the Jewish homeland. So eager was the young man to join the Israeli military that he actually gained access to an enlistment center by standing on a Dumpster and climbing through a second-floor window in the rear of the building after being turned away at the front entrance. Still, Silverstein said, he wasn’t content. The 5-foot-6-inch, 118-pound Levin had a burning desire for higher service, and his determination led him to become one of the few Americans admitted into an elite paratrooper unit.

In fact, in early July he cut short what was supposed to be a three-week visit home to rejoin his unit.

“Michael lived a heroic life and died a heroic death,” Silverstein said, struggling to maintain his composure. “Not only was he a hero, but he defined what it is to be a human being and what it is to be a Jew.”

Uri Palti, consul general of Israel, added that Levin is a symbol of how “we are indeed one.” Directing his comments to Levin’s loved ones, the consul general said, “Michael left what was his world to be with us, to defend us. And now the nation of Israel is crying with you.” Ephraim Lapid, a brigadier general, related how just eight days ago, immediately following the rally, Mark Levin was bursting with pride as he showed him photos of his son the paratrooper. Since then, Lapid lamented, so very much has changed.

“We’re sorry, Michael. Sorry we couldn’t save you. God wanted you closer to him,” the brigadier general said. Then he saluted and began to speak, but his voice cracked. “I salute you, Michael Levin.”

Shortly before he and the other members of Battalion 101 headed to battle in southern Lebanon, Levin had told his twin sister, Dara, and older sister, Lisa, that he missed them, he loved them and that he’d be okay.

Kevin Waloff received a text message from his lifelong best friend. “Michael said I wouldn’t be able to reach him by cell phone” for a short period of time, Waloff said. “I figured he was going to southern Lebanon.”

Mark Levin vividly remembers his final in-person conversation with his son, which took place at JFK Airport in New York.

“After we exchanged hugs,” the elder Levin began, “Michael said: ‘Please don’t worry about me. I’m going exactly where I want to be and doing exactly what I want to do.’ He also told me that if anything should happen to him, he wanted to be buried in Mount Herzl Cemetery.” On August 3, thousands of mourners were on hand as Michael Levin’s request was honored.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.