Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Professor Gabriela Shalev, Israels General Consul in New York Ambassador Assaf Shariv, Israeli Defense and Armed Forces Attach to the U.S. and Canada Major General Benjamin Gantz, and IDF Spokesperson Brigadier General Avi Benayahu.
The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Annual Gala Dinner, one of the most anticipated fundraising events of the year, brought together more than 1200 notable business and philanthropic leaders from across the country on Tuesday March 17, 2009, to salute and show their support for the Soldiers of Israel at New York Citys famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is a nonprofit organization devoted to the well being of Israels soldiers and the families of those who have fallen in defense of the Jewish Homeland.
Among the many contributions, was a 2.5 million dollar donationannounced by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews,designated for the well being of the soldiers specifically towards the FIDF DIGNITY Program. The FIDF DIGNITY Program provides soldiers in-need with special grants, food allowances and holiday gift vouchers. In addition, a prominent contributor from the New Jersey area anonymously pledged 1 million dollars to build a home for Lone Soldiers, and an additional 1 million dollars was pledged by the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York (IAJF) to build the Ofarit infirmary located near Jerusalem for Wounded Soldiers.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the audience with opening remarks from the Knesset, and expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the great work both of Israels soldiers and their supporters in the U.S. Three distinct IDF soldiers from varying IDF units also greeted the guests via live satellite from an IDF base at Yahalom, updating everyone on their experiences during Operation Cast Lead.
Israels Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi sent hissincere apologies to all the participants of the Gala Dinner where he was due to speak at as the guest of honor. Instead he greeted the guests via a live satellite link, to update them on Israels current situation. In addition, this evening featured guest speakers representing the IDF and its soldiers. Among them: Major Oren Balitzblau, a former combat soldier who was injured and lost his sight in a terror incident at a border crossing and after recovery chose to return to the IDF. He currently serves as an instructor in the Intelligence branch of the IDF; Mary Dan Gor, a bereaved mother whose child fell in Gaza, shared the compelling story of her son 1st ST. Eran Dan Gor with the guests.