Michael Levin (soldier)

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Michael Levin (born February 17, 1984 in Holland, Pennsylvania, United States – died August 1, 2006 in Ayta ash-Shab, Lebanon) was an American-born soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who was killed in action in the Second Lebanon War, during the first round of fighting in the Lebanese town of Ayta ash-Shab. He was 22 years old. His death had a major impact in Israel—thousands attended his funeral—and inspired the creation of a support organization for other foreign soldiers in the IDF. A memorial to him was built in Jerusalem.

Omer Yaniv, from Levin's paratrooper unit, gave a graphic description of the chaotic circumstances surrounding his death. The 890th Paratrooper Battalion came under heavy fire as they advanced into the town. The IDF soldiers could not identify the source of the fire. The battalion's units got separated when running for cover. Levin's platoon hid in the back room of an empty store. A Hezbollah fighter managed to get close and fire straight into the small room, hitting Levin in the head. After several hours reinforcements reached the building and extracted them.[1]

Levin was one of three IDF soldiers killed in Ayta ash-Shab that day. Another 27 on the Israeli side were wounded. For several hours, the Israeli soldiers fought fiercely and killed 15 Hezbollah fighters, according to IDF figures. The IDF's wounded were treated at the spot under heavy fire, as an evacuation was deemed almost impossible.[2] A local commander of Hezbollah guided Al Jazeera though Ayta ash-Shab after the war and showed them the store where Levin was killed.[3]

A memorial for Levin was erected at Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem, the site of a major battle during the Six-Day War of 1967.[4] The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin was created in 2009 by a group of people who had served as "lone soldiers" in the IDF. The center operates from branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. It provides services to lone soldiers such as help finding housing, counseling and organized meals on Jewish holidays and the Jewish Sabbath.

On August 1, 2011, the 5th anniversary ("yarzheit") of Levin's death according to the Gregorian calendar, a flag was flown over the US Capitol in his memory at the request of a man from his local area, Johnson Reynolds, who considered him both an Israeli and American hero. Upon receiving the flag from the architect of the Capitol, Reynolds, at the invite of an IDF battalion commander, traveled with several friends to Israel and on September 21, 2011, accompanied by a member of the IDF, flew that flag over Levin's resting place at Mt. Herzl. On June 27, 2012 they presented the flag to Levin's parents, Mark and Harriet Levin, in a case with the assistance of Consul General Daniel Kutner of the Israeli consulate of Philadelphia.[5]

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