Sean Carmeli’s Facebook page is almost typical for a 21-year-old. There’s his profile photo taken with a girl leaning on him, blurry Instagrammed shots with friends at parties and a sepia-toned picture of him bicycle riding with friends on the Tel Aviv boardwalk. There’s also his cover photo with his fellow squad members, some faces blackened, guns at the ready.
Not everyone is grinning in that photo, but Carmeli was.
“Me and the squad,” he wrote, labeling a batch of photos he put up on Facebook.
First Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli was killed Saturday night when his APC, the armored personnel carrier that featured prominently in that Facebook album, was struck by an anti-tank weapon in Gaza — one of 13 Golani soldiers killed in the Hamas stronghold of Shejaiya that night.
“No sleepin a lot of drivin,” wrote Carmeli on one photo featuring him in full gear, in front of an APC.
Carmeli was buried in Haifa’s Neve David cemetery on Monday night. Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral, with some estimates putting the number at a staggering 20,000.
There had been concerns that the lone soldier, who split his time between Ra’anana and South Padre Island, Texas, where his Israeli parents live, wouldn’t have enough people paying their final respects at his funeral.
But since he was a huge fan of Maccabi Haifa, the soccer team posted a photo of Carmeli on its Facebook page after his death, asking fans to go so that his funeral wouldn’t be deserted.
The team also announced that it would have two buses waiting at the cemetery to bring people back to the country’s center, after the 11 pm service.
Ahuvah Berger, a Kfar Saba resident who attended the funeral, was struck by the mix of people at the funeral.
“There were people from all walks of life,” she said. “Religious, secular, Chabad, a Ra’anana crew, a lot of people from Haifa. Soldiers from the navy, air force and infantries. It was really impressive to see it. And there were a lot of people walking around wearing flags, Israeli flags.”
Ra’anana mayor Ze’ev Bielski spoke, as did the principal of Ostrovski, the high school Carmeli attended.
While Carmeli spent part of his high school years in Ra’anana, under the care of his two older sisters, he was also tied to the South Padre community, where his parents became deeply involved with the small, but strong Chabad-led community.
He was technically a lone soldier, because his parents don’t currently live in Israel, but was close to his family, calling his sisters and niece, “My girls,” and writing of his sister’s baby daughter, “My little niece she’s so friggin cute and amazing.”
Carmeli served in the Golani Brigade with distinction. When he was called up to Gaza last week, his officer told him he didn’t have to go to the front because of a foot injury. Carmeli insisted on serving with his squad.