Israel Defense Forces is the protector of the saying: “All Israel are responsible for each other.” Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) completes this saying.
FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a not-for-profit 501(C)(3) organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs and facilities for the soldiers of Israel.
The FIDF noble mission is to provide well-being and educational programs for the members of the IDF. If you do not know yet, FIDF work touches many lives in Israel. The money the FIDF raised supports and accomplished these projects worth mentioning:
- For the academic year 2016-2017, FIDF granted 4,025 IMPACT! scholarships, sponsoring students at over 90 institutions throughout Israel;
- In 2016, through the FIDF Strides Program, FIDF helped 710 soldiers wounded in battle to rebuild their lives through financial aid, mentoring, recreational activities, employment assistance, and athletic prostheses for amputees injured during military service;
- In 2016, FIDF supported 1,351 IDF widows, orphans, and siblings of fallen soldiers through life-cycle celebrations, including trips to the US for Bar/Bat Mitzvah children, R&R weeks in Israel, and special family days;
- In 2016, FIDF provided guidance and support to over 2,800 Lone Soldiers, who came from all over the world to enlist in the IDF and serve the state of Israel; also sponsored 917 flights for Lone Soldiers to visit their loved ones abroad;
- In 2016, FIDF afforded 10,372 soldiers from different backgrounds and military ranks the opportunity to partake in various in-service educational programs, designed to guarantee that Israel’s soldiers continue to grow as educated citizens and future leaders;
- In 2016, FIDF funded 33 weeks of crucial rest and recuperation to combat soldiers;
- FIDF builds, refurbishes, and maintains buildings for the wellbeing of IDF soldiers, among them sports centers, culture halls, synagogues, memorial rooms, swimming pools, sports facilities, and soldiers’ homes throughout Israel. FIDF’s newest series of projects is the wellbeing and education centers at the IDF Training Campus in the Israel south Negev, where FIDF funded the construction of 12 facilities at a cost of $43 million. In addition, FIDF currently has 11 new projects being constructed across Israel.
Together, FIDF makes a significant difference in the life of those IDF soldiers – Navy, Infantry, Armored Forces, Air-Force, Boarder Police – who wake up each day to defend the state of Israel and strengthen – in many aspects – the entire Jewish Nation, wherever its members live.
For eleven years, the support from the Los Angeles community for this remarkable cause outdoes itself.
Last night, at the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, in the FIDF annual gala, chaired by Haim and Cheryl Saban and attended by Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, 1,200 plus enthusiast supporters of the IDF, among them, prominent business, philanthropic, and political leaders and celebrated names in entertainment, fashion, sports, and technology, gathered to show the world the meaning of the IDF – to the state of Israel and beyond – and through their whopping $53.8 million dollar contributions to FIDF they spoke volume.
The audience – Photo credit Shahar Azran
At the star-studded gala, emceed by of Israel origin actress Moran Atias, the food and service were of high quality; entertainment by famous musician, songwriter, composer, arranger, producer and recording artist David Foster, singer Gene Simmons, multi-platinum, JUNO Award-wining vocal super trio, The Tenors and the singer Seal was superb. But, and here comes the ‘but’, nothing can surpass the life experience stories each of the IDF 15 delegation young members have to tell.
Israel is a nation of soldiers. Military draft applies to every Jewish-Israeli boy and girl when they reach 18-year-old age. Conscription also applies to young Israeli-Druze men, many of them serve with distinction. Each soldier sees his or her duty to selflessly serve, none see themselves heroes.
I see them heroes and at the gala several of them, each one told me his or her riveting and deeply touching story.
Ravit and Hadar z”l
Ravit serves in IDF Border Police – actually, counter-terrorism.
Two months after she enlisted, Hadar, on her first assignment, Ravit and other Border Police Officers were sent to guard a post outside east Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. Their task was to defend Jerusalem. Three Arab terrorist arrived at the gate with homemade “Carl Gustav” rifles, knives and two pipe bombs. When Ravit noticed the three Arabs behaving in a suspicious manner she asked to see their ID papers. The terrorists stabbed Ravit and Hadar. Hadar shot the attacker, thus saving her friend, Ravit’s life while she was shot in the head by a second terrorist who suddenly came from behind her. Hadar managed to return fire even though she was critically wounded.
Ravit survived, Hadar succumbed to her wounds.
The Border Police established a basic training Company named Hadar. The other basic unit is Oz. The names are biblical: “Her dress is courage (oz) and grace and nobility (hadar), and she played to the last day.” Each month 250 Border Policewomen fighters conscript to the Hadar and Oz units.
Healed, stronger and more determined to do her job, to protect civilians, decorated with a fighter’s badge and a pin Hadar’s parents designed, Ravit returned to serve with the Border Police. She went through basic training, took a commander’s course and commanded series of Harar company basic training, thus closing a personal circle.
Ravit believes that the terror incident made her stronger. Her commanders supported her and helped her during the difficult recovery period. Hadar’s parents understood the duty of the military and know that serving in the military does not come with security policy. “It all comes from upbringing. Hadar knew this and acted in this light. I understood that Hadar saved my life and that impels my life and actions.”
In nature Caracal, native of Africa and Middle East wild cat with a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears and long canine teeth. The Caracal’s speed and agility make it an efficient hunter, able to take down prey two to three times its size; its powerful hind legs allow this wild cat to leap more than 3 meters (10 ft.) in the air to catch birds on the wing.
In Israel, the IDF prides itself on being an institution of nation and social cohesion. In 2004, the IDF continued in its tradition of innovation and established a unique mixed-gender fighting infantry unit: the Caracal Battalion.
Sharon is a member of the Caracal Battalion.
On an incident on September 21, 2012, three Egyptian militants, dressed in civilian clothes, armed with two explosive belts, and carrying AK-47 rifles and RPG launchers, approached the Egypt-Israel border at an area where the Israel-Egypt barrier remained incomplete, and opened fire on a group of IDF soldiers, among them Sharon, riding an open-top Hammer and securing the civilian workers who were constructing the border fence.
“All of a sudden we heard loud voices in the communication system letting us know an IDF soldier is wounded.” She tells me her story. Sharom, a medic as well, informed the communication Corp person she is going to take action. “The terrorists were shooting toward me. I asked for returned fire cover-up in order to reach the wounded soldier. I was equipped with a shooter’s gun, and I ran in an open field with no place to hide and bullets are shot me, literally in between my legs. I reached the wounded soldier, but it was too late; his heart stopped and there was nothing I could do to save him.” She then paid attention to the terrorists, knowing they had to be neutralized. The three militants were killed in the ensuing gunfight, one of them by Sharon who was wounded.
Sharon continued her military career. She passed a Unit Commander’s course but due to her injury, though she tried, she could not complete the officer’s course she started.
In order to serve in the Caracal Battalion one has to enlist for three year service. “As women fighters, we serve three years with love,” she delivers her poignant declaration.
Originally from Vienna, Austria, where her parents and grandmother still reside, the beauty is serving as a lone soldier with IDF Artillery’s Sayeret (Special Forces). “You know there are hardly any Jews living in Australia nowadays. Most of my family was murdered in the Holocaust. I was a member of the Zionist youth movement Ha’shomer Hatzair and very connected to Israel. I made ‘alyia’ (term of a Jew’s legal immigration to Israel) and passed through special formulation tests in order to serve with the Artillery’s Sayeret. In three months I will be discharged. The service was most meaningful to me and I am looking forward to make my future in Israel.”
Col. (Res.) Dr. Salman Zarka
He is a doctor, a retired IDF Colonel, and now serving as the Director General of the Ziv Medical Center, in Zefat, Israel. He is an Israeli from the Druze sector and as an IDF doctor he established the field hospital on the Syria Israel border on the Golan Heights in order to give medical assistance to hundreds of wounded Syrian civilians. For decades the Syrian population was indoctrinated to believe that Israel and Israelis are the embodiment of Satan. It is a difficult decision to go ask ‘Satan'” to treat your injury or save your life.
His standing is poised: “The IDF is first to arrive on the scene of any disaster, anywhere in the world, establishing a model of the ultimate field hospital. We now have human disaster on our doorsteps and it is our enemy that needs our help. Israel does not know borders when humanitarian assistance is badly needed. They have no name, they go back to never tell where they were treated, but Israel must extend hands and help. A small seed of kindness is being seeded and perhaps one day it will help bring a better future to the region. We must show the Syrian population the values of the IDF and Israel we know and they do not know. We lift their spirit when they leave and somehow, we become their family and they becomes ours.”
Terrorism is Israel’s reality
In March 2002, when she was 8, a terrorist blew himself up in Jerusalem and murdered her older brother, who was in 10th grade at the time, and her little sister, a one-year-old baby, and six members of her extended family. Capt. “N” remained an only child. Her family chose life, chose to continue. Her service in the military only strengthens her parents.
Closing the Holocaust-to-strong-navy circle
The story of “T,” a naval officer serving on one Israel’s sophisticated submarines touched me a great deal.
His grandmother was six-year-old when she was thrown with her mother into an ‘execution pit’. The mother pleaded for their life and promised the Nazi soldier ready to shoot them that one day she will pay him back for his mercy. Reluctantly, probably somewhat deterred by the little girl he is about to shoot, he let them go. The grandmother was 12-year-old when WWII ended and the Holocaust came to a halt. She made it to Israel. Though searched for him she found that the merciful German Nazi soldier was killed. Standing on the dock, ready to witness her victory, her nation’s victory over evil, “T‘s” proud grandmother witnessed the arrival of her grandson on a German made submarine that will protect Israel’s coastal line; her grandson helped his Holocaust survivor grandmother close the- NEVER AGAIN- circle.
For the past 70 years, Israel has been at war, at ceasefire pause and in expecting another war mode. The military force Israel developed is out of necessity, it is in order to defend the tiny country, nestles in a very volatile neighborhood.
The IDF is an army of the people for the people.
There are many arm forces in the world. However, Israel Defense Forces can be set aside as a different kind of arm forces. Under the scrutiny of many who oppose to Israel defending herself and even to Israel’s existence, the IDF was put under the world’s stringent, magnifying glasses surveillance. The result, in order to keep its ability to defend and protect the state of Israel, the IDF became a superior military force along with being an exemplary model of moral and fighting code of ethic. Supporting this military force will only make the world a better place and putting your money where your moral is – the FIDF – is not only compelling but also a higher calling.