My Hero: Michael Levin hy”d
One morning while drinking coffee, I came across an article in The Jerusalem Post with a picture of a young IDF soldier who had died in the Second Lebanon War. Little did I know that my life would change forever that day.
As I gazed into the picture of the young lad, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by his smile. Who was this young man? What I came to learn about First Sergeant Michael Levin is that he was no ordinary Jew from America. He was the most inspirational figure for young American Jewry. He single-handedly woke up a generation to the importance of being committed to Israel in both thought and deed. I had found my hero.
Michael Levin left his comfortable home in Philadelphia to volunteer with the IDF’s elite 890 paratrooper unit. During his service, he participated in many anti-terrorist missions, repeatedly risking his life in defense of Israel. In 2006, Michael received a special vacation from the army to visit his family in the United States. While he was in Philadelphia, the Second Lebanon War began and Michael immediately put everything on hold. As quickly as he could, he returned to Israel, cutting his vacation short to join his comrades in arms.
When Michael arrived in Israel, he was told not to come to the front lines, but rather to serve guarding Hebron. Michael looked the officer in the eye and said, “If you want to go to Hebron, you go to Hebron. I’m going to Lebanon.” Michael did not take no for an answer and demanded to be sent north to rejoin his unit in combat. Ultimately, his wish was granted. A week later, Michael and his unit entered the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, where they came under heavy enemy fire. Michael was killed by a Hezbollah sniper while fighting in that battle.
Michael’s posthumous influence was so great on me that I decided to walk down the same path, leaving the comforts of America to volunteer as a soldier myself. Michael gave me confidence and vision; he showed me not only that it could be done, but it must be done.
On July 25th, the 7th of Av, we will commemorate Michael’s 17th yahrzeit. Though I never met him, this extraordinary Jew will forever be a part of my life. Michael’s yahrzeit is the same day I made Aliyah – a coincidence that carries great meaning for me. I named my son Michael Avraham in honor of my personal hero, who exemplified what is demanded of all in this generation: commitment.
Commitment is not judged by whether you serve in the army or not. It’s about loving G-d, His people, and the Holy Land of Israel like Michael did. May we find the strength to serve G-d and our people with the love, commitment and dedication of Michael Levin, a true hero of Israel.
● This essay is adapted from David Perlow’s autobiography, Not A Lone Soldier.