From Bill Sutter’s Desk Nov/Dec 2006
Fallen Israeli Sgt. Michael Levin, 22, was buried in August on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem amid an outpouring of mourners, the likes of which are usually reserved for persons of great fame. Thousands of Jerusalemites, many of whom never met Michael, overflowed the cemetery to demonstrate their commitment to a larger family: the family of Israel.
Throngs wept, and soldiers clung to each other and cried for this heroic young man who had immigrated to Israel alone at age 18 to serve in the army, leaving behind his family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “We are all family in Israel!” said a grieving Israeli, one of millions who knew their “son” Michael had given his life in southern Lebanon, defending them from Hezbollah. As Christians, we also understand that he died defending all of us in the worldwide cause of freedom over tyranny.
Accounts of Michael Levin’s journey from America to Israel, his heroism, and his death resonated from wire services, newspapers, and television networks both in the United States and abroad. One news source proclaimed, “Michael Levin: An Israeli hero for our time.”
There is also another side of the story of Michael Levin’s life: his connection with The Friends of Israel. Soon after he arrived in Israel in 2002 until his death on August 1, Michael spoke to and fellowshiped with hundreds of Christians who participated in seven of our “Up to Jerusalem” tours to Israel. To many, he was “their” Israeli soldier—the one whom they met, spoke with, and prayed for continually. His picture is displayed in scores of their homes.
Michael’s bravery on the battlefield was also matched by his personal initiative. A year ago he launched a special fund-raising project to supply the latest protective combat vests for members of his Paratrooper Battalion 890, Israel’s elite antiterrorism unit. Many of our tour participants contributed, strengthening their commitments to Israel, as well as to Michael and his colleagues, who were known as Israel’s bravest.
In a letter Michael presented at the closing dinner of our March 2006 tour, he and his battalion expressed their appreciation:
Not only do you help support us in good times, you stand with us in bad times as well….I thank you from the bottom of my heart; I hope you understand how important your work and dedication mean to us and the state of Israel. The help you provided…enabled us to purchase 12 new combat vests for my platoon. We have already started using some of the new vests in missions and in our fight against terror….We…will be forever grateful for your continued support in these troubled times.
Shortly before Hezbollah precipitated war by incursions into Israel and by pummeling northern Israel with Katyusha rockets, Michael spent several weeks with his family in Bucks County. His visit included a day at The Friends of Israel. He shared with us his belief that the Jewish state would soon experience war. His time in the States was cut short by the outbreak of the war he had predicted. Returning to Israel, he requested immediate deployment to fight in the north.
Having known Michael and his parents as neighbors and friends for many years, I would receive regular updates on Michael’s situation from his dad, Mark Levin. One such phone call came toward the end of July at the close of our Winona Lake Prophecy Conference in Indiana. Though Michael had been back with his military unit for little more than a week, he had already been in and out of Lebanon several times. Days later he died leading his fellow soldiers into a fierce battle with terrorists in a Hezbollah stronghold.
Traveling to Israel with the Levin family for Michael’s funeral, my wife, Annette, and I experienced an outpouring of sympathy and support from Israel’s El Al Airlines, the Israeli government, and Israel’s military that was beyond all expectations. As one Israeli mourner explained to us following the service, “There is not another country in the world that would give such hugs and kisses.” We understood.