The Jewish community of a south Texas beach town was in mourning on Sunday after it was informed that one of its sons was among the Israeli troops that fell in a bloody Gaza battle on Saturday night.
Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, had moved to Ra’anana from South Padre Island (population 2800, Jewish population 75), where his family moved from Israel over twenty years ago. His parents are Alon and Dalya Carmeli.
“The whole community feels like they lost their own son,” Rabbi Yonatan, the family’s rabbi told The Algemeiner on Sunday. “The family is completely devastated,” Rabbi Asher Hecht, another rabbi/friend said.
“We are in a very bad situation here,” Yonatan said. “It was very hard for everybody.”
Both rabbis had just accompanied Sean’s parents to the airport for their flight to Israel to bury their son.
Sean was the youngest of three children, and with two older sisters, Gal and Or, was an only son. All family members are American citizens.
“When his father would talk about him there was a sparkle in his eyes, he was very proud of him, he was a warrior in the Israeli Army,” Rabbi Yonatan said.
Both rabbis and a friend, Mendy Fellig, described Sean as a “gentle” soul who “loved to smile all the time.”
“He was just a happy good spirited person,” Fellig said.
Tens of other friends flocked to Sean’s Facebook page to pay their respects, posting their memories and praise of the young man.
His family is secular and he attended public school growing up, but was “very proud of being Jewish,” Rabbi Hecht said. The family was part of a small community of Israelis that run beach clothing and souvenir shops on the Island.
“He went to Yeshiva just before entering the army,” Hecht said. “He was very satisfied, he thought it would help complete him as a Jew, spending some time learning Torah in a serious manner.”
The last time Sean’s father spoke to his son was on Wednesday when Sean shared that his army officer had quizzed him over an unrelated minor leg injury. Responding to the officer’s suggestion that he may not be fit for service, Sean had said, “Brusie or no bruise I am coming with you.”
“He was enthusiastic to go in and to fight for the Jewish people, and he gave his life for the Jewish people,” Rabbi Hecht said.
Yonatan praised Sean’s family as charitable, and as pillars of the small community.
Prayers were said for the young man’s safety in the local synagogue over Shabbat and all Saturday night friends and neighbors stayed with Sean’s parents awaiting news from Israel. “We didn’t know for sure if he was involved in what happened last night (in Gaza),” Yonatan said.
The rabbis said that the local Shoova Israel Synagogue on South Padre Island is dedicated and named in memory of Sean’s grandfather Nissim whom Sean was named after.
“The Shul (synagogue) will (now) be named for both,” Rabbi Yonatan said.