Max Steinberg, a 24 year old sniper in the IDF, was killed on Sunday morning as he entered the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City with his unit. A memorial service was held at Lazy J Ranch Park in West Hills, on Sunday night. Hundreds of friends along with the Steinberg family and members of the community attended. On Monday, July 21st, the Max Steinberg’s parents and his brother and sister, travelled to Israel for the funeral.
Shejaiya has been a center for rocket launches and many underground tunnels have been discovered in the area. Given that the tunnels are being used to smuggle weapons, hide explosives and deliver terrorists into Israel, it was inevitable that troops would enter the area as part of the military campaign, Operation Protective Edge. Steinberg knew his unit was likely the first unit that was going into Shejaiya.
While driving an APC, an armored personnel carrier, an IED or perhaps a mine exploded. Seven soldiers lost their lives. Steinberg’s parents, brother and sister faced the news in their Woodland Hills apartment while Max Steinberg’s friends stopped by to pay their respects.
Less than two days earlier Steinberg had called home and was in good spirits. Stuart Steinberg spoke to reporters on Sunday and explained that, “Although he was American he truly connected. He belonged there.” Max’s father remembered his son explaining, “I’m not here by requirement, I’m here by volunteering and I have a purpose.”
After visiting Israel on a Taglit Birthright trip in 2011, Steinberg completed his studies at Pierce College and the following year chose to return to Israel where he joined the IDF as a soldier in the Golani infantry, a prestigious unit that is at the frontlines of conflicts. Max insisted that this was the purpose of his joining the IDF and he was not willing to work at a desk job or in a less risky capacity, despite being offered less dangerous assignments.
“So, he went back,” Stuart Steinberg said. “He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel. He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing.”
Max spent time in Israel improving his Hebrew before becoming a soldier and the Steinberg family anticipated that Max would make aliyah after his service ended. The IDF estimate that approximately 1500 soldiers volunteer for service each year. These young men and women come from many countries in the world and the majority remains in Israel afterwards.
Stuart Steinberg explained that he had spoken with Max in the early hours of Saturday morning when his son called to say that his armored vehicle had been rear ended by another army vehicle the previous day. There had been some soldiers with broken bones but he was OK. “He said that he was fine, that he’s a little sore, but he’s ok and that he’s going back in,” recalled his father. “He said, ‘My friends are there and I’m going back in.’”
Before he went into Gaza with his brigade on Sunday, Evie Steinberg said, Max’s final phone conversation was with his father. “The last thing he said to my husband was, ‘Tell my mom I love her.’” She went on to explain, “I want him home with me. However, he did what he wanted to do.”