Tuesday, July 17th | 5 Av 5778

August 10, 2014 3:46 pm

Why My Brother Really Died

avatar by Gal Carmeli

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Sean Carmeli. Photo: Family.

My brother, Sean Carmeli, was born and raised in South Padre Island, Texas. He grew up in a very warm and loving home, a safe environment where doors were never locked, and car keys were always left in the switch.

He was surrounded by people old and young, American, Mexican and Israeli, English, Spanish and Hebrew, Jewish and Christian. Plain and simple, he had an absolutely normal life.

Thankfully, we never felt any hatred, anti-Semitism, or any of that. Still, my parents decided to move to Israel when Sean was almost 16 years old. He continued high school in Ra’anana, and at age 18 was drafted to the army.

I am now taking a moment to look around my home, and I see my mother on the floor, sad and scared, and my father on the couch crying. The news is on, Paris and London are full of anti-Semitic demonstrations, Obama keeps changing political views, and I find myself wondering, has the world gone mad? It seems that everyone has gotten a little confused these days, in most of the world and in Israel as well. I hear people speaking of a war about land.

I keep hearing the term Israeli- Arab conflict or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t understand Islam vs Judaism. And personally, I don’t care.

The only thing that has been on my mind for the past two weeks is why my brother really died.

It seems a little hypocritical.

Aborigines in Australia, Indians in America, Armenians in Turkey, Tutsis in Rwanda, Iraqis by ISIS, Syrians by their own kind, Russia, Europe, Africa, and the list goes on. But the media emphasizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The political focus is on the Jews, the Jews, yes, the Jews. Perhaps this is all I see.

Perhaps it is the bubble I’ve set myself in. But is it? Is it really about a conflict having to do with land when protesters all over the world shout “Death to Jews”? I can tell you my opinion about life and people. Although born Jewish, I am not sure of my stance on the subject. I live in Israel but have dreamed of spending my life in every country or state possible. I am an Israeli, but my heart, mind and soul connects to every single human being in the world. I don’t care what you look like, where you come from, or what God you believe in or don’t believe in. I can also tell you that many, if not most, of my Jewish/Israeli friends feel the like.

But I can add my understanding of a Jewish state. Why does my family-by-blood hold on to the very little we were given? For the past 10 years I have refused to believe that Jews are still victimized, still being persecuted, still despised by an enormous number of people, for we live in the 21st century (although a total of over 200,000 innocent deaths in Syria, trapped in my subconscious, makes me question that).

The answer to my query is anti-Semitism. Whereas I would love to live in a pink world full of butterflies – no, I am not being cynical – it is not an option at the present time.

It is not an option because the beautiful fantasy of, for example, a binational state in Israel, comprised of Muslims and Jews, is not by any means the epitome of equality. As soon as Israel opens, not only its borders, but also its heart, it will instantly become an Islamic regime. And we all know what that means. (If you don’t, I suggest you hurry to Google as fast as you can.) An Islamic-ruled Israel may mean death to Jews, but if we don’t get that far, it may only suggest a very poor quality of life. A life consisting of inequality for women and gays, no freedom of speech, death in the most gruesome ways possible, and the list goes on. So for now, at this moment in my life, as a person living in the only democratic state in the Middle East, I will not open my door to Islam, and I do not apologize for that.

I will believethat one day this terror will be eliminated.

My belief stems from love and empathy, Terrorism has a broad agenda; it starts in Israel, but, like the Islamic State recently said, “The Islamic caliphate has been established, God willing it will not stop until we raise the flag of Prophet Muhammad in the White House.” My brother fought terrorism, not only for my family and me, but for all of you as well, with the hope that someday, Jews, Christians, Muslims and all religious and seculars people will find serenity in their homes, in their hearts, and in their minds.

I would like to take this opportunity for a very personal statement.

If I ever imagined a situation like this, the death of a loved one, I imagined myself crying on the floor, for years, watching my whole family in a dark state of depression, and loathing the world and everything in it. Although my stomach is filled with deep pain that will most likely exist forever, I don’t feel doing any of the above. I don’t know if it’s Sean’s strength that gets us through these days, or the atmosphere we have become accustomed to in the past few weeks, but I can say on behalf of my family that the love and support we received from family and friends, the city we life in (Ra’anana), Israel, and the world in general has given us so much love at a time that feels like the most painful and excruciating period in our lives.

For hugs, letters and presents, for thoughts and prayers, invitations, memorials, recognition and pure empathy, I want to say thank you for giving us the little bit of light we see in the darkest tunnel.

Although Sean was considered in technical terms a lone soldier, he was anything but – he was always surrounded by an abundance of love from an enormous number of people.

I don’t think that the many people who showed up at his funeral came just because he was a lone soldier, but also with the nation’s desire to feel united again, to be grateful from the bottom of their hearts, to show their deep recognition for all the heroes of Israel, both dead and living, and to connect to us in the most sincere manner possible.

And for this, I will forever be grateful.

Sean was a man of love, harmony, freedom and an abundance of life. I feel Sean’s spirit inside all of us, and I hear his voice saying simply, “This is awesome.”

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge the world to come to Israel, and see for yourselves what this country is really about. What it stands for.

It’s tolerance, it’s beauty, it’s harmony, it’s happiness, it’s energy, it’s spirituality, but most of all it’s longing for peace. For the first time in my life, I can now call Israel my home.

St.-Sgt. Sean (Nissim) Carmeli, 21, from the Golani Brigade, was killed in Shejaia, Gaza City, on July 20 when a Hamas anti-tank missile struck his armored personnel carrier. This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post

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  • Larry S

    As a gentile, I grieve with you for your family’s loss. The debt owed to your brother by all people who value civilization and humanity is incalculable.

  • shloime

    המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

    and may you know no more sorrow.

  • Albert Lopez

    Dear Gal,
    The Jewish community of South Texas was deeply impacted by these news. I did not have the pleasure to meet Sean or any of your family personally while you lived here. Sean’s sacrifice goes beyond just the defense of Israel. As you eloquently put it, he simply fought for freedom and a better world for us all.
    It was a breath of fresh air to read your article. It gives us a perspective of what soldier’s families are going through with the loss of their loved one. It also gives us the point of view of the Israelis. I feel I learned much from your words. Thank you, and especially thanks to Sean. May his memory always be remembered.

  • Yoel Nitzarim


    May the L-rd bless you and your family with the gift of peace. Thank you for sharing these sincere, uplifting sentiments. They bring light to this world in great need of more light. As a kohen I send my deepest prayer to you and your family that you all yet find happiness and goodness in this world.


    Yoel Nitzarim

  • Moira

    Wishing you and your entire family long life (as we say in South Africa). Your brother was a hero and made his people proud.

    May Hashem grant peace to you and Israel.

  • Tony Cantu

    My dearest Gal:

    It has been eons since I have seen you or spoken to you. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. I cannot even imagine what you and your family are going through. Please know that the St. Joseph Academy school community are keeping Sean, you, Or, your parents, and family in prayer.
    Your article is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I don’t know if you will see this, but I wanted to let you know that you are supported, prayed for, and loved here at SJA.
    May the Holy One hold you and yours in his loving embrace.
    with much respect, admiration, and love…

    • Gal

      Hi Tony!
      So good to hear from you.
      Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

      And thanks to everyone for all the rest of the beautiful comments. It means so much.


  • hadassa

    Dear Gal,

    May you and your parents be comforted by the One above, and live long and healthy lives in peace. May the memory of Sean, who was killed while defending his country and his people, be for a blessing. The Jewish world mourns with you and with the families of all those killed in this terrible war on Israel.

  • Dear Gal, beautifully written words. I would like to post on my website. Only with your permission. Let me know.
    May Sean’s memory be a blessing.

    • Gal

      It is an honor for you to be reading and posting. Thank you

  • Latron

    1- Well, first of all, sorry for your loss, but most probably another 50 mothers are grieving their children because of your brother.

    2- Please stop using this “anti-semitism”, believe me; no one has a clue what that means other than the Israeli politicians continuously using it and people like yourself who continue the repeating path.

    3- Jewish Freedom ” gay rights, women rights ..etc” : Please, come on!!! are you reading about beit shemesh or any of your jewish orthodox area’s? i would rather live with Talban in Afghanistan rather than living the “jewish freedom”. Personally, i didnt see any difference from what you are promoting and what ISIS is promoting: the religious country that will eventually destroy your life. ” with ISIS being more aggressive at the moment 🙂 imagine more of your ” Jewish” friends who tortured and killed Abu Khdeir ruling Israel someday. how will that differ from ISIS?

    4- love israel as much as you want, but as long as israel continues this injustice towards palestinians, probably you will never see love in this place of the world.


  • I am so sorry for your loss but so thankful that such beautiful words and ideas have sprung up from it. If only this hateful conflict could end so that innocents could stop sacrificing themselves for our freedom. I hope our article reaches many and changes the hateful way people see Israel and Jews. Bless you and your brother.

  • Adrienne Singer

    Dear Gal, my heart goes out to you for such a tragic loss. In today’s Chicago Tribune there was an article written about youngsters in a “bad” neighborhood of Chicago where the media has only horrible things to say about it. These youngsters wanted the world to know all the good things about their neighborhood and that they are not afraid to live there. I thought about this compared to how the media portrays Israel and I feel the media adds to the anti-semitism with their distortions and slanted articles. There is an expression that “truth will out” and I am praying that the truth will out in Israel’s defense. There are many intelligent good people who see the truth. Have faith, Gal. You have many good purposeful people behind you.

  • Sylvia Cobersy

    I have never read before such a moving article, Sean must have been a wonderful guy, and he gave his life for Israel. I am so moved by your mail, I can hardly speak. Thank you so much.

  • Herbert Cohen

    Beautiful I wish I had written it.

  • Janene Reich

    Mine and the whole of Israel’s hearts go out to you and your family. We cry with you. Your brother was a Hero and an angel on earth. He will always be in our hearts and we will always remember him and be thankful to him and you and your family for giving up so much to keep our people and our country safe. May Hashem bless you and your family with strength at this difficult time. Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.

  • Enezio E. de Almeida Filho

    He’s already of blessed memory not only in Israel but in all countries and hearts that promote and love peace and freedom!

  • Avi

    Dear Gal,

    So well said. Stay strong! Sean is still a great soul if in life he had a sister like you.

    Shalom v’ahava from Haifa!

  • Sam

    Too many scars.. Too many dead people. Blood will draw blood. 375 children dead in Gaza in this latest conflict only. What tolerance you speak of? if the IDF are tough find and kill Hamas operatives. So far civilians die, Hamas are thriving.

  • Tone Lechtzier

    Shalom Gal,
    my sincere condolences. We’re on the same page, for peace and harmony. May HaShem ease your pain, and bless your family. Your sharing brought tears to my eyes. I would have enlisted, but am far too old now.
    Ahava ~ Tone

  • I fully support Gal Carmeli’s thoughts. Why people are fighting ? Islam and Judaism gives message of peace and why people try to separate and Jews. Pray to God to guide us on the right path.


    • Sonia Willats

      Hussain. You hear the voice of reason, and love of your fellow man. Kol hakavod that you hear this. I think we are fighting because so many terrorist mini armies, supported by states like Iraq and Qatar, do not want peace – they want an Islamic caliphate. There was a time, the crusades, when the so-called Christians went on the rampage as well, feeling that their murder and violence brings glory to G-d, but of course, this can never be.

      I also think the fighting continues because states that should oppose terror, e.g. the United States (but this applies to Europe as well) support terror mini-armies and states and trade with them. Obama has said that ‘Israel is too strong and Abbas is too weak..’ but you can substitute Hamas for Fatah there.

      Anyone who supports random killing should be condemned. The trouble is that, if they are officially condemned -as Hamas is, as Iran has been – the ‘liberal’ Western world is not standing by its own standards. This is why the battle is continuing, in my understanding – because the West fails to stand so the aggressive majority presses forward with its mad aim to subdue the whole world under an Islamic caliphate.

      I too have a friend who is Muslim, but she is reasonable and loving.

      Gail, I have watched this ‘operation’ with deep concern and pain for each lost soldier, and starting, of course, with the ‘chatufim.’ I totally agree that the world has gone mad – is standing on its head. Why does France allow a rally of 17000 anti-semites????

      May your family be blessed, and the memory of your beloved brother stay alive in your heart.

    • Joel


      You know nothing if you think Islam gives a consistent message about anything except hate and death. I don’t know what Koran you are reading, but it is not the Noble Qur-an. I’m just doing a study of that book and there are scores of scientific, historical, geographical and chronological errors in it. It’s no wonder that Muslims have not been able to add to the treasure of the world’s advancement in the past several hundreds of years.

      • Gal

        Hi Joel,
        I have not really read the Quran, and although people have stated to me that they read such statements, I have yet to believe them until I see it for myself. So, I don’t believe it is the message of Islam.
        The problem is not the religion itself, but the radicals and what they’ve made of it. Although every religion, such as every state, has radicals, the muslim arab extremists are a very very large number, and it is nothing but obvious that they promote hatred, violence, and religious cleansing, and are most primitive and racist. And somehow, they are growing and given legitimacy (such in this specific case).

        And thank you all for such wonderful comments. I am very grateful you are reading what I have to tell.

        • שי

          מקסימה ומרגשת.
          חיבוק גדול.

          “Charming and exciting.
          A big hug.”

  • Gregg Solomon


  • Scott

    You’ve written a beautiful and heartfelt narrative, as well as a fitting tribute to your heroic brother. Bless you and maybe someone out there who has never really seen what Israel is all about – will be effected by your story.

    I know that for one…..I am.
    Thank You!

  • Emanuel

    Beautiful words, may his memory be a blessing. Words cannot describe the gratitude American Jews have for your brother. It hurts us all deeply to hear and see how reasonable and centered you are while we are being called extremists when we are only being extremely serious about living in peace.

  • Aristotles

    He died fighting for an illegal occupation and siege. The sooner the Jews learn they can’t sugar-coat their role in genocide and evil, the sooner genocide and evil will be put down. Their own claims of victimization and threat only serve to prop themselves as the center of all things. There is no peace without truth first, and Judaism and truth have never been on a first name basis.