Some 20,000 people – many Maccabi Haifa soccer fans, most of them strangers – came out in force Monday night (July 21) to the funeral of IDF soldier Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli. The 21-year-old Israeli-American Carmeli was one of 13 IDF soldiers killed in the July 20 battle in Shejaiya, Gaza.
Carmeli, who served in the Golani brigade, was considered a lone soldier in Israel. He has two older sisters who live in Israel but his parents, who are Israeli, live in Texas where he grew up.
Sean, whose Hebrew name was Nissim, immigrated to Israel in 2009 and chose to do his high school years in Ra’anana. He then stayed on to study at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 2012, he was drafted into the IDF.
Carmeli was also an ardent Maccabi Haifa soccer fan.
After another fan posted a message on Facebook early Monday announcing Carmeli’s death, the Texan’s distant relatives contacted the fan and asked if he could send out notices to other fans to come to the funeral as they feared there would not be enough people to say a final goodbye to the young soldier.
The Maccabi Haifa soccer club put out this message on its official Facebook page:
“Carmeli was a lone soldier, and we don’t want his funeral to be empty. Come to his funeral Monday night to pay respects to a man who died so that we could live. This is the least we can do for him and for our nation.”
Police estimated that some 20,000-40,000 people answered the call. Many soccer fans arrived wearing the team’s uniform and waving Israeli flags. The scouts movement sent a delegation of 200 youngsters. And the general public came to pay their respects.
Three days before he was killed in Gaza, Carmeli sprained his ankle and a doctor asked him if he wanted to let it heal before joining his unit in action. Maya Kadosh, Israel’s deputy consul for the US Southwest, told Reuters that the South Padre Island-born Carmeli declined the offer and insisted on joining his friends in combat.
Another American-Israeli soldier Max Steinberg, from California, was also killed on Sunday in Gaza.