(September 14, 2020 / JNS) Thousands of supporters from across the globe joined Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in saluting Israel’s soldiers and veterans at the first-ever virtual FIDF National Gala on Sunday. Themed “A Night of Heroes,” the event raised a total of $15 million to support educational programs for Israeli soldiers, with donations still being made.
The program featured several segments honoring IDF soldiers, including lone soldiers who join the IDF with no immediate family in Israel.
Among those recognized at the gala was a female Black Hawk Pilot, Cpt. T., who participated in an opening segment called “Air, Land and Sea,” in which active-duty soldiers took the audience on an action-packed training mission. Another segment, focusing on one family’s multigenerational story, highlighted the Witnesses in Uniform Program.
The gala featured a performance by pop star and IDF soldier Noa Kirel, who just signed a deal with Atlantic Records. Israeli singer and songwriter Idan Raichel also performed live, as did the IDF Musical Ensemble featuring soldier Eden Alena, who will represent Israel in the next Eurovision Song Contest.
Israeli-American actress and model Moran Atias and FIDF national chairman Rabbi Peter Weintraub served as masters of ceremonies.
Notable guests included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Defense Minister Lt. Gen. (Res.) Benny Gantz; IDF chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi; founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Pastor John Hagee; and Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
“The great transformation of our people’s history took place when the Jewish people restored the capacity to defend ourselves by ourselves. This is what the IDF is all about,” said Netanyahu.
FIDF national director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, who will be succeeded this month by Steven Weil, gave a farewell speech after six years of unprecedented organizational growth.
Among the major donations, Nefesh B’Nefesh pledged $1.3 million; Brothers for Life pledged $1 million; Or Lachayal pledged $1 million; Momentum pledged $750,000; Genesis Philanthropy Group pledged $600,000; and the Iranian American Jewish Federation pledged $600,000.
In addition, notable among the gala’s donations was a pledge from supporters Cheryl and Haim Saban, who will match donations up to $500,000, and FIDF national vice president Marc Perlman and his wife Claire, who will also match donations up to $500,000.
That represents a total match of $1 million, for which donations will be ongoing post-gala.
“I have no words to express my appreciation to this big, huge and unique organization, said Kochavi. “I do not think that anywhere in the world there is another kind of ties and organization like this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
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