The meaning of Nissim Sean Carmeli’s death

Every war has its unique character; every war has its vocabulary, its symbols, its memories.

There is no question that when the dust settles from the Protective Edge Operation, along with the shock of the extent of the terror tunnels, the astonishing success of the Iron Dome defense system and the inclusion of Tel Aviv in the Color Red alerts, the public memory will be etched also with the remarkable 20,000 people strong, outpouring of sorrow that was the funeral of lone soldier Nissim Sean Carmeli, “May the Lord avenge his blood”. “Come and pay final respects to a hero who died so that we can live”, was the call, and the Beautiful Israeli responded in throngs. The moving song written by Ariel Horowitz, in response to the funeral, has touched the heart of the nation, and is likely to be one of the eternal icons of the war.

As I pass the tent in which the family mourns the customary “shiv’a” period every day, a kilometer from my home, a tent erected to cater for the hordes who wish to come and pay respect and identify, I wonder whether Sean’s death might mean even more. Is there an even deeper meaning to the phenomenon of Nissim Sean Carmeli?

Sean, and other lone soldiers like him ask themselves: why in the world should it be considered fair that only those young Jewish boys and girls who happen to be raised in Israel should bear the burden of the defense of the State of Israel?!

Is it not clear, that unlike any other country in the world, the State of Israel caters not only to its citizens, but to the entire Jewish nation, throughout the world? Does not every single Jew living in any foreign and faraway land, breathe significantly easier with the knowledge, that when push comes to shove, when “Bloody Jew” turns into burnt down synagogues, when physical and social securities eventually vanish, that he has the privilege and right of showing up at Ben Gurion airport, where not only will he be welcomed, but he will receive an aid package to help his absorption?

So why when our sons and daughters forfeit the very most productive years of their lives to protect this state for the sake of the entire “Am Yisrael”, their cousins overseas are gleefully whisking through their college studies, so by the time our children are released, they are all ready to begin their careers and start families? While our 18 year olds are sweating and spitting blood in the infamous basic training, the foreign accent of the gap-year 18 year olds can be simultaneously heard, hiking down “Shvil Yisrael” partying in Tel Aviv bars, at seminars and yeshivot.

I am not aware of any effective legal technique of enforcing such an obvious demand, but Jewish schools around the world should be educating the moral conscience of each young Jew around the world that it is the basic duty of each and every Jew to serve his nation, until peace blesses our country.

There is even an enormous benefit. Nothing holds back assimilation around the world more than identification with the State of the Jews; and there is no better way for Jewish youth to express their attachment with Israel, than to join their brethren in the ultimate service.

There is a Hassidic parable told of a flock of eagles (eagles don’t actually flock, but don’t let a mere fact ruin a good story), which was souring on an annual long journey from north to south. As they spectacularly performed their wondrous acrobatics high in the heavens, a sudden powerful airstream struck the side of the entourage, pushing one of the eagles off balance and sending him tumbling down to Earth.

The poor eagle landed heavily on its wing in the midst of a chicken coop of a dear old farmer, known affectionately by the poultry as “Father Brown”. The injured eagle was tended to with warmth and kindness, until several months later it returned to its former strength.

Soon after, the flock of eagles were once again seen overhead on their return journey. The head eagle looked down, and spotted his comrade below. Instructing his fellow travelers to wait, he swiftly descended to the coop.

“Come!” he invited the recovered eagle.

“Well,” began the acclimatized eagle, “to tell you the truth, things aren’t all that bad here with Farmer Brown. 3 great meals a day, wonderful heating system, lots of water, no danger. Actually, thanks for taking the trouble to drop in, but I think I’ll pass, and stay right here.”

“Listen,” responded the senior eagle, “you can stay here if you choose, with your guaranteed food, your heating and your beloved Farmer Brown. But if you stay here, you’re a chicken. Come with me and be an eagle!”

“Should your brothers go out to war, while you just sit here?!” was the stirring rebuke Moshe Rabeinu thundered at the tribes who dared to suggest they should stay outside the borders of Eretz Yisrael, while those destined to dwell within the borders would fight for the homeland. The call echoes throughout the generations, and was last read in all synagogues on the last Shabbat of Sean’s life. May the example set by Sean, and his tragic and untimely death amplify and magnify that call!

About the Author
Rav Yitzhak Ajzner is a member of the Beit Midrash for Halacha of Beit Hillel. He came on aliyah from Australia immediately after high school, and worked in education for 10 years, in various positions ranging from a school principal to a teacher at the hesder yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim. He also served as a community rabbi, and has worked as a software engineer for 18 years.