LOS ANGELES — Max Steinberg and Nissim Sean Carmeli grew up in America and had a passion for Israel.
Their love of Israel led both to join the Israel Defense Forces and fight against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where they were killed Sunday.
Mr. Steinberg, 24, and Mr. Carmeli, 21, were among 13 Israeli soldiers and scores of Palestinians who died during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
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Mr. Steinberg was part of an elite Golani infantry unit and had been working to locate terrorist tunnels and rocket launchers in Shijaiyah when his armored vehicle was hit by an antitank rocket, said David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.
Six other soldiers were killed in the attack, he said.
Stuart Steinberg, whose family lives in the San Fernando Valley in California, said his son was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade.
Mr. Steinberg was living in Beersheba, Israel, and had attended Pierce College and El Camino Real High School in California.
He visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip with his younger brother and sister in June, 2012, his father said.
When he returned, he told his family that he was planning to return and join the Israel Defense Forces. He made good on that promise less than six months later, making the move in December.
Mr. Carmeli, 21, a sergeant, was from South Padre Island, Texas, said Maya Kadosh, deputy consul general of Israel to the Southwest.
He moved to Israel four years ago and joined the Israeli army after finishing high school there. He was also part of the Golani Brigade, said Rabbi Asher Hecht of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, a longtime family friend.
“He had great energy, yet had a kind and gentle soul,” Rabbi Hecht said. “We lost a gem.”