New York, NY – At a sold out event that filled the ballroom of New York’s Waldorf Astoria to capacity, a multi-generational gathering of supporters of the soldiers of Israel joined more than 50 active duty IDF soldiers, men and women, to celebrate and commemorate. Almost 1500 attended, raising over $23 million for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
This year event marked the 30th Anniversary annual dinner. In special recognition, guests included six former IDF Chiefs of Staff, and, by satellite, greetings from the current commander, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz who stressed his confidence in the “brave men and women who defend the Jewish homeland.” Benny Shabtai took the helm of the event for the 15th year and Monica Cowley, PhD. again served as Mistress of Ceremonies.
Two presentations took the heart and soul of all assembled. As keynote speaker, Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. (Res.) Ehud Barak discussed the importance of the work of the FIDF in supporting the soldiers of the IDF, especially the many lone soldiers from throughout the Diaspora.
The words of bereaved mother Miriam Peretz, who has given two sons, 1st Lt. Uriel Peretz and Major Eliraz Peretz. Uriel, in the defense of the Jewish State, brought to the fore the real cost of keeping Israel safe. Few gifts can approach the one she has been called upon to give. Yet, she remains able to smile, sharing her strength and pride. “Israel” she said, “is where she can hold her head high.”
Technology connected the assembled almost 1500 directly to the forces “on the ground.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed appreciation to Israel’s soldiers and their American supporters. From Israel’s main Air Force base, “Lt. Noam” spoke of advancements in anti-missile defense; a member of a tank crew noted that his mother was, indeed, “very happy” about the cutting-edge technology that saved his life and the lives of his fellow soldiers.
A tradition of public announcement of gifts is part of the annual dinner. No matter the amount of the pledge, whether $500 from an active duty American soldier to the $8.5 million committed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to the life gift from a holocaust survivor, each was received with full acknowledgement and gratitude, adding to the strong fabric of support the FIDF provides to Israel’s soldiers.