EXCLUSIVE: Israel's L.A. Consul General Speaks Out

EXCLUSIVE: Israel's L.A. Consul General Speaks Out

LOS ANGELES — Israel’s Consul General to the southwestern United States, David Siegel, spoke to Breitbart News about Los Angeles native Israeli Defense Forces soldier Max Steinberg, who was killed Sunday fighting Hamas in Gaza. Siegel also discussed Israel’s ground operation targeted at destroying tunnels that terrorists have dug in anticipation of launching attacks on Israel.

“He was a hero of Israel, of the Jewish people,” Siegel said of IDF soldier Max Steinberg who was killed on Sunday by terrorist fire while fighting Hamas on the front lines of his unit. “On behalf of the State of Israel, the consulate and our partners in the [greater Los Angeles] community,” Siegel extended his condolences to the Steinberg family. “Max’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.” 

Max, 24, was one of two Americans, along with Sean Nissim Carmeli, 21, of Texas, to die while fighting Hamas on Sunday. 

Max was born and raised in Woodland Hills, California, where he graduated from El Camino High School. He briefly attended Pierce College, but soon discovered his passions lay more greatly with the defense of Democracy and the protection of America’s democratic counterpart in the Middle East, Israel, than with academia. 

After a trip to Israel in 2012, Siegel said Max fell in love and made the decision to enlist as a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces just a few short months after in the fall of that year. He was accepted into one of the IDF’s “foremost elite combat units” of the army, the Golani unit. Siegel said that the Golani unit is “known as a major combat unit that is tasked with some of the most difficult missions,” noting that it is “famous for some of Israel’s most difficult battles.” They bare a large part of the military activity that takes place on the ground, he noted. Max’s family described him as “a loving, fearless, relentless man.”

The Golani unit, Siegel added, is “dealing directly with the threat of terrorist tunnels and rocket launchers.” He said the “heart of the Gaza neighborhood has been turned into a terrorist fortress.” 

On Thursday, Hamas terrorists posing as IDF soldiers and wearing IDF uniforms infiltrated Israel and opened fire, killing two IDF soldiers. “They attacked us from behind…It’s a clear and present danger to Israeli civilians,” Siegel insisted, noting the urgency being employed with the dismantling of the underground terrorist tunnels. “It’s very treacherous underground.” 

Siegel noted to Breitbart News that these “attack tunnels” have been discovered “under mosques, under homes…and those tunnels go under Israeli civilian communities.” He said Israel is “in the process of destroying them” but that “it’s going to take time” as the tunnels are made of “reinforced concrete.” Eighteen attack tunnels have already been uncovered, each one running approximately one mile in length and are composed of over 700 tons of cement, Siegel explained.

On Saturday, terrorists used the tunnels to access Israel, carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs, clearly intent on taking prisoners, just as they had done with Gilad Shalit, Siegel reminded. In 2011, Israeli prisoner of war Gilad Shalit was released from his Hamas captives after five years of being held by them. He was released in exchange for the release of 1,027 terrorist prisoners.  

Siegel told Breitbart News that the IDF has approximately “5,000 lone soldiers [like Max], a large part of them from North America and Canada” serving in Israel. He called Max’s service “a great expression of courage, bravery and brotherhood of the Jewish people,” emphasizing that “Americans have given up a lot of fight in the IDF. It’s a very unique process.” 

Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles has done a great deal of work with partners to set up a program which offers support within the community for the parents and families of lone soldiers who are in need of support.

Max’s parents and siblings are currently on their way to Israel to prepare for the burial of their son and brother. His funeral, Siegel said, is set to take place sometime this week. Israel’s government officially identified Max’s body this afternoon.

“Max made the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever indebted to him,” Siegel said.