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  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted July 24, 2014 by
    jerusalemite
    Location
    Jerusalem, Israel
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Israel-Gaza conflict

    More from jerusalemite

    Bob Marley, the Gaza War and the Meaning of Life

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     jerusalemite has lived in Jerusalem since 1997. She didn't know Max Steinberg, but she was one of the thousands who felt compelled to honor him at his memorial service on July 23.
    - rachel8, CNN iReport producer

    Why did 30,000 Israelis stand in the blazing mid-day sun on Wednesday to honor a 24-year-old Bob Marley fan from California?

     

    Israel has lost 29 soldiers so far in the war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. Several of them have been young men who immigrated without their families and joined elite combat units of the Israeli Army.

     

    Yesterday, it was Max Steinberg, a wiry, short guy who had never stepped foot in Israel until 2012, who was buried at Israel's national military cemetery on Mt Herzl.

     

    Steinberg was killed in action on Saturday as his unit took part in the ground assault to discover and dismantle dozens of terrorist-smuggling tunnels and put a stop to the barrage of rocket fire directed at Israel for the past 13 years.

     

    Streets all around the cemetery were blocked off; extra trains and buses were quickly laid on to accommodate the masses of Israelis from all walks of life who quietly converged on the hillside filled with the fallen of all Israel's wars.

     

    They came as a sign of national unity; as the rockets fired from Gaza continue to fall over a wide swath of the small country and the combat troops successfully thwart attempts by Hamas terrorists to burst out of the tunnels into Israeli border communities, a majority of Israelis recognize the need to finish the job, and to ensure a future that does not include lives interrupted by missiles and rockets.

     

    All over the country banners honoring Max’s Golani brigade wave over buildings and street corners; hundreds of people descend on the country’s hospitals to visit wounded soldiers and thousands of volunteers spend hours packing food and toiletries to be delivered to the troops on the southern border.

     

    Max Steinberg may have not been the most natural candidate for the job of fighting Hamas terrorists, but he was committed to defending his people and his adopted country and living a life of meaning. Many in the silent crowd of mourners were amazed to find out that Max didn’t even have a Hebrew name, and his parents had never been to Israel before.

     

    Max's siblings and several fellow soldiers told the hushed crowd that spilled down every level of the hillside cemetery, that Max was a longtime Bob Marley fan. The "lion of Zion" was an inspiration to the Woodland Hills, CA boy. According to one of his friends, Max exemplified the Marley idea that "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”

     

    After visiting Israel for a 10-day trip with his brother and sister in 2012, Max returned to California and told his family he had fallen in love with Israel and its people.

     

    From then on, his brother said, he wanted to, in Marley's words: “Love the life you live. Live the life you love.”

     

    Steinberg's father, Stuart, on his first visit to Israel, said many people had asked if he and his wife Evie had any regrets that Max had joined the Golani brigade of the Israeli Army. "The answer is an unequivocal no."

     

    "Mission accomplished, Max," Stuart and Evie told the crowd before reciting the Kaddish memorial prayer that was answered by a 30,000-strong "Amen."

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