A “lone soldier” – an immigrant who is serving in the IDF without any local family support – is to be buried on Tuesday after he was found dead on Sunday, and a Facebook group is hoping to bring hundreds of Israelis to the cemetery in Kiryat Gat where he is to be laid to rest, despite the fact that he was unknown to them.
The Facebook page, called “Good People Helping Lone Soldiers,” has over 8,000 members who contribute time, assistance, meals, and money to soldiers who come to Israel, to live, and to serve in the IDF. There are an estimated 2,500 such soldiers in the army, IDF officials said. One member, for example, offers a free weekend at a home “on the shores of the Kinneret. Instead of spending Shabbat in a hostel, come to us for a relaxing Friday night meal and Shabbat experience. Our doors are always open.”
On Sunday, a soldier whose name has not been released for publication was found dead, according to the page. “We are asking Jews to come to pay him honor on his final journey,” page managers wrote. “The funeral will take place at 1 PM in the military cemetery at Kiryat Gat.”
No details were published about the soldier's identity, or the circumstances surrounding his death – although most commenters on the Facebook post announcing the funeral conjectured that the soldier had committed suicide. “In general, the media does not report suicides among soldiers, partially out of fear that it will trigger others who have been considering such a move to act,” wrote one poster on the page.
Last year, some 30,000 people people attended the funeral of IDF Sergeant Max Steinberg, a lone soldier from the US who was killed in battle during Operation Protective Edge. Nearly all those who attended the funeral heard about it on social media, mostly Facebook. “Over 30,000 people came to give you the honor of a hero,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said at the funeral. “The strength of the Jewish people lies in people like you. This week, we buried soldiers from Morocco, Russia and Ethiopia here. Soldiers who fought for the Jewish nation.”