Max Steinberg’s last heartbreaking words just before he died were “Tell my mom that I love her”Staff Sergeant Max Steinberg, an American-Israeli dual national, was a ‘lone soldier’ who lost his life during Operation Protective Edge which began in mid-July after tensions rose in the summer of 2014 with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal.
Steinberg was among 13 IDF soldiers who died during the first major battle between Israel and Hamas. Steinberg was stationed with the elite Golani 13 Unit near the Syrian border as the escalation of rocket fire from Hamas, and the discovery of terror attack tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel forced the the IDF to take action in defense of its citizens.
Within hours, Steinberg’s unit advanced from the Syrian border and positioned itself on the front lines of the war in Gaza. Steinberg died in heavy fighting in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.
Steinberg was raised in Woodland Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles. Max had never been to Israel and it was only at the age of 22 where Max finally made it to Israel as he attended a Birthright trip. It was during this trip at a visit to Israel’s military cemetery, Mt. Herzl, that Steinberg decided to radically change his life, move to Israel and enlist in the IDF.
Just 3 months later, Steinberg made aliyah and began his service as a lone soldier. Against all odds, at only 5 foot 3, and not knowing Hebrew in a unit where everyone is fluent in Hebrew, Steinberg was not a shoo-in to be in the elite Golani 13 unit, but Steinberg’s perseverance, determination and stubbornness catapulted him to the elite Golani unit 13, where he successfully completed an advanced training course to become a sharpshooter. No wonder his nickname as a young child was ‘Little Dynamo’
‘I came out to support the family after I heard on social media that most of his relatives were not in the country,’ Eli Stern, 29, told Ynet.com. ‘I don’t know him but I felt like I have to be here, so that his parents arriving from aboard feel like the entire nation stands behind them and that Max has not died in vain.’
“Max has helped to rekindle the Zionistic spirit which gave birth to this state, and has reminded all of us of the blessing from G-d, the special merit that we have to live as a free people in our land – as well as the sacrifices we must make to maintain this reality'” Rabbi Dov Lipman a member of Israel’s Parliament said in a eulogy.
“Thank you for protecting our children, thank you for protecting our state, thank you for protecting the Jewish people, and thank you for showing us that a regular American boy from California can raise himself to the level of Jewish and Israeli hero. Lipman concluded.
At the funeral Evelyn Steinberg placed her slain son’s Golani army hat with the words that she scribbled on the back “We want to thank all of you who have come to the funeral today”
‘We are proud of our son, who fought for Am Yisrael. Max believed that one day he would be able to make Israel his home. When he was called to the army, he told them, “Either you make me a Golani 13, or I’m going back home!”‘ his mother added.
‘The last thing he said to my husband was, “Tell my mom I love her,”’ Evie Steinberg recalled.