On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, as US VP Pence was traveling in Jerusalem, roads were clogged, security was enhanced everywhere, and a Birthright “Foodie” tour had trouble getting to the Kotel. They made adjustments and spent a short 8 minutes at the controversial “mixed seating” lower Wall under Robinson’s Arch, and then extended their visit to Har Herzl.
On Mount Herzl, Israel’s “Arlington Cemetery,” Taglit/Birthright trips traditionally visit the grave-site of suburban Philly native Michael Levin.
Michael, the “Lone Soldier” from Bucks County, PA cut his summer 2006 US vacation short to join his comrades during the Second Lebanon War. The fallen “Hero in Heaven,” Michael made the supreme sacrifice, being the lone US-Israeli casualty. Michael became a symbol for American Jewish young adult devotion to Israel, many making Aliyah and following Michael’s example by serving in the IDF.
Michael’s story also has become part of the central narrative of the US-Israel relationship, as he followed the example set by his hero, Entebbe rescuer Yoni Netanyahu, who also grew up in Cheltenham, another suburb of Philadelphia, not far from Bucks County.
Michael was a devoted Philadelphia Phillies baseball and Eagles football fan, with memorabilia flagging his grave-site.
Adjusting to the VP Pence central Jerusalem mayhem and congestion, on Mt. Herzl Birthright group leader David Balcher shared with the young adult group Michael’s story. Balcher noted that Michael would be especially happy with the Eagles set to go to the Super Bowl on February 4.
In the “it’s a small world” Jewish connections department, Balcher, who is an app developer, also assisted Michael’s mom Harriet on the website devoted to Michael Levin, the American-Israeli “Hero in Heaven.” David (pronounced Israeli style – Dovid) also lent his special talents to the Jewish community with the summer of 2017 “launch” of a Birthright group leaders’ App, which has gotten rave reviews from fellow Birthright group leaders.
Special note: David Balcher is returning early to the US from a post-Birthright Israel stay, so he can party in Philadelphia, and share stories of the Israel trip, visiting Michael’s resting place, and sharing Michael’s JOY in an Eagles Super Bowl victory.
“Fly Eagles Fly!”