Staff sergeant Michael Levin, 22, announced to his mother already at the age of 16 that he wanted to immigrate to Israel and enlist to a combat unit in the IDF. Four days ago, Michael shortened a trip to the States to visit his family in order to return to Israel and to fight in the north. Tuesday, Michael's mother received the bitter news in Philadelphia: Michael, who followed his dream and enlisted to the paratroopers, was killed in the difficult battle near Aita al-Shaab in southern Lebanon.
Michael immigrated from Mangold, Pennsylvania three years ago, leaving behind his parents and two sisters. He lived in the religious Kibbutz Yavneh, and later, moved to an apartment in Jerusalem with two other soldiers.
Reut, Michael's friend from the kibbutz, said that he was always funny and friendly: "I met Michael when he immigrated from the US three years ago. When he first arrived, he studied in the ulpan (special class for learning Hebrew) on Kibbutz Yavneh, and that's where I met him. It was very important for him to go to a combat unit in the army, even though he didn't have to enlist. He simply wasn't ready to give up. I remember him as a funny guy, friendly and sweet. He had a lot of friends on the kibbutz, and some that he met in Jerusalem."
A short while ago, Michael received a special discharge from the army in order to visit his family in the United States. Upon hearing news about the outbreak of war in the north, he decided to shorten his vacation, and returned to Israel four days ago. His friends say that he went to his commanders and asked to be sent immediately to the northern border.
The consulate representatives that arrived at Michael's family's house to inform his parents of the devastating news, found his mother talking on the phone with her friends. His mother, who sensed something terrible had happened to her son, had started calling friends to try and find out how he was doing. They didn't know how to tell her that he had been killed in battle.
'Just a fantastic kid'
Tziki Oud, who serves as a kind of adoptive father for lone soldiers from the US and is the manager of the Immigrant Information Center in the Jewish Agency, said Tuesday that he couldn't believe that Michael was no longer around. "I still don't know how to eulogize him. Only two weeks ago we sat and ate together in Jerusalem. He told me that he really wanted to be an officer and to go to commanders' course. He asked if I could help him. He was part of a band of lone soldiers from the States who were very close. Everyone is very sad today. One of his friends called me and said that because of Michael's comic personality, he is positive Michael is going to call any minute and say 'Gotcha!' "
"Michael was just a fantastic kid who gave his all to the army. He really wanted to be accepted into the commandos. In one of our last conversations he told that he has no problem going through the entire paratroopers track all over again if they would ultimately let him join the commandos. I met his mother in one of his ceremonies. She was worried, but accommodated herself to her son's desire to enlist in the IDF. It was a strong desire that he had from a young age."
Oud goes on to say that the soldier that he himself adopted, Yonatan Marcus, was one of Michael's good friends, and was lightly injured in battle: "Last Saturday Yonatan came to me after returning from battle in Bint Jbeil. He had a very difficult experience there and said that he didn't want to go back until he said goodbye to all his friends. He was traumatized by what he experienced there."
"He, like all the other lone soldiers, cannot comprehend that Michael is no more. They call me and say that they still expect him to just show up. He had a good heart and there isn't one American in Jerusalem that doesn't know him. We lost one of our most optimistic kids. He had his feet on the ground and never hurt anyone."