When Fishbein heard of the two Americans killed, it touched him deeply, he said. He has struggled to post on his Facebook page his emotions or even give an explanation to his friends in California as to why he felt the need to serve. He never wanted to join the U.S. armed forces, Fishbein said.
For the 25-year-old commercial production assistant, serving in the Israel Defense Forces was the culmination of milestones in his life, he said. In ninth grade, he accompanied his father with a documentary crew filming the unearthing of Jewish artefacts in a once largely Jewish town in Poland that was destroyed in the Holocaust.
"That was a surreal experience for a ninth-grade kid to go through, but it set me up to go to Israel and serve," he said. "Every lone soldier has had something similar."
Josh Reznick, 24, who works for a real estate investment firm in Baltimore, briefly considered joining the U.S. military, but after living on a kibbutz for a year, he realized his calling. He served in the same unit as the two Americans killed during the weekend. He didn't know either of them, but he did know one of the fallen Israeli troops.
Reznick believes the Steinberg and Carmeli will be "shining examples" for other lone soldiers. He was inspired by Michael Levin, a lone soldier from Pennsylvania killed fighting for Israel in 2006. He visited his grave site in Israel, where his tombstone is covered in Phillies baseball hats and Eagles jerseys.
"It's very nice living in America and everything is fine. But I'm sure people right before WWII felt the same way about living in Germany," he said. "If only there had been a place to run to for the Jews. That's why it's important to keep Israel, a Jewish nation, alive."
Isaac Cohen, 18, of Silver Spring, Maryland, starts this month at an Israeli military prep school before joining the army next year. He isn't deterred by the recent violence.
"They teach you how to survive in Israel," said Cohen, who lived there for six years. "You kind of have to survive there. I feel a lot stronger when I'm there."
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Washington and Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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