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Fallen Israeli-American Soldiers Commemorated in Special Jerusalem Ceremony

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Family and friends mourn at the funeral of 20-year old IDF soldier Shlomo Rindenow, July 18, 2016. Rindenow was killed along with another Israeli soldier when a grenade accidentally exploded near an army post on the Golan Heights. Photo: Ben Drori / Flash90. – For Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), the Jerusalem-based Lone Soldier Center hosted a unique English-language event focusing on the stories of fallen Israeli-American soldiers Michael Levin and Shlomo Rindenow.

Levin and Rindenow were “lone soldiers” — foreigners serving in the Israel military who do not have immediate family living in Israel. The Lone Soldier Center, founded in Levin’s memory in 2009 by a group of former lone soldiers, is the only organization entirely dedicated to “meeting all of the physical and social needs of lone soldiers,” according to its website.

The center has branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, where it provides lone soldiers with special counseling, help with finding housing, and meals on Shabbat and holidays.

Sunday’s Lone Soldier Center memorial service in Jerusalem was Israel’s only public Yom HaZikaron ceremony conducted entirely in English.

At the event, Elisa Levin, the sister of Michael Levin, spoke about her brother’s love for Israel; a similar passion has led many young non-Israeli Jews to follow in his footsteps, and voluntarily serve in the IDF.

Levin immigrated to Israel from Philadelphia in 2002, and joined the elite IDF Paratroopers Brigade. In 2006, while visiting family on vacation in America, he cut his trip short and returned to Israel to serve with his unit after war broke out on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Upon arriving in Israel, Levin was deployed with his unit to a Hezbollah stronghold in the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab, where soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been taken after being captured on the Israeli-Lebanon border two weeks earlier. Levin died while fighting Hezbollah terrorists inside the village. He was 22.

“I believe Michael’s story helps people find a deeper connection to Israel,” Elisa Levin said. “Losing Michael is a constant reminder to me that our time here is limited, and to make the most of it. You should pursue you dreams no matter what obstacles get in the way.”

Also at Sunday’s event, Yocheved Rindenow, who lost her younger brother Shlomo in a military accident on Israel’s northern border last summer, shared the story of her brother’s journey from New Jersey to the IDF.

When he turned 18, Shomo moved to Netzer Hazani from Passaic, New Jersey, and volunteered for a year with a search-and-rescue organization before joining Israel’s military. He was 20 when he was killed, along with Staff Sgt. Hussam Tafesh, after a grenade held by Tafesh exploded near a Golan Heights army post.

Following his death, thousands of Israelis gathered at Rindenow’s funeral to pay their final respects. Rindenow was one of five brothers, among nine siblings, who immigrated to Israel and served in the IDF.

“He was always in love with Israel,” Yocheved Rindenow said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “He didn’t know Hebrew … so he came here, he taught himself Hebrew, and joined the [IDF] unit that he was really passionate about.”

Shlomo Rindenow was “100 percent committed to the army,” said his older brother, Jeff Tower. According to Tower, Shlomo “ sacrificed [himself] for the land.”

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