At 2 a.m. on July 23, Bud and Judy Levin were awakened by a call from Israel to their home in Los Angeles. It was their son, Max, a 21-year-old paratrooper in the Israeli army — calling from a hospital.
Just a few hours earlier, he had been securing a three-story home in Gaza with other members of his unit when a booby-trapped explosive planted by Hamas detonated, killing three soldiers, seriously wounding at least four others and lodging a piece of shrapnel above one of Max’s eyes.
If the shrapnel had struck “a quarter of a millimeter” in any other direction, Max likely would have been killed, Bud Levin told the Journal. Following the explosion, Max was airlifted to Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva for surgery. He has since been released.
Speaking from Los Angeles recently, Max’s father said that he had just returned from a brief trip to Israel, where his wife remains with their son.
A 2011 graduate of New Community Jewish High School, Max Levin made aliyah in 2012 and is serving out the army’s mandatory three-year service for citizens. His unit’s July 23 operation in Gaza was part of Israel’s ongoing effort to find and destroy Hamas’ dwindling cache of weapons and explosives, and its network of underground tunnels, which the terrorist group has used in recent weeks to attempt to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers on the other side of the border.
Jonathan Price, a cousin of Max Levin’s and his only relative in Israel, wrote in an email to friends and family that a “steady stream” of people Max didn’t know paid him visits bearing food, balloons, flowers, letters and pictures drawn by Israeli schoolchildren for wounded soldiers.
“They offered Max their prayers and blessings, sang songs, told him stories, asked him about himself, and most of all, just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Price wrote.
That evening, Price added, Israeli officials cleared the room of visitors so that an army psychologist could inform Max of the deaths of his three fellow soldiers and the serious wounds inflicted upon the others.
According to Price, Max was particularly close with his commander, Lt. Paz Eliyahu, who was killed in the explosion. “[He] is said to have been an extraordinary person, and to have helped Max in a personal way through the many difficulties of his army service,” he wrote.
Bud Levin said that even though his son probably won’t be in any shape to go back into combat for at least a month, he’s eager to return immediately.
“Everybody says no, including the army,” he said, adding that when he asked Max if, just maybe, he would consider returning to California to recover, his son responded:
“No. Somebody’s got to keep up the memory of my three buddies who we lost.”