This story was originally posted at Cleveland Jewish News

Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian journalist, author, commentator and activist, expressed her strong support of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.

“The IDF is a beacon of light in a very dark corner of the world,” Gabriel told a crowd of about 500 as the keynote speaker at the Friends of the IDF Ohio Chapter’s annual dinner. “The armies of America and Israel are the only ones in the world that have such compassion for their enemy … because they have such respect for humanity.”

Gabriel, 50, said a life-changing experience when she was a child in Lebanon led to her love for Israel and respect for the IDF.

During the Lebanese Civil War, which started in 1975, Islamic militants launched an assault on a Lebanese military base near her family’s house and destroyed it. She said she and her parents were forced to live underground in a bomb shelter for seven years, with only a small kerosene heater, no sanitary systems, no electricity or running water and little food.

In 1978, a bomb explosion caused Gabriel and her parents to become trapped in the shelter for two days. They were eventually rescued, but later, her mother was seriously injured and taken to an Israeli hospital. She said she was surprised by the humanity shown by the Israelis.

“That was my first lesson in the character of the Israeli people,” she said. “The doctors saw people in need and they helped; it didn’t matter what nationality they were. They treated my mother before they treated an Israeli soldier lying next to her because her injury was more severe than his.

“I spent 22 days in that hospital and it changed my life. The Israelis were able to love and forgive their enemy in a way that I was unable to do.”

Gabriel said through ACT! America, a grassroots organization devoted to promoting national security of which she is founder and president, she is doing everything she can to protect and support Israel.

“The IDF is what keeps Israel alive and well,” she said. “(By donating to the FIDF), you are investing in the safety and security of your children as Jews.”

Gabriel, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., is a leading expert on global Islamic terrorism who lectures all over the world. She is a regular guest analyst on Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and ABC and various radio stations across America and the author of two New York Times bestsellers.

Ornah Luft, of Hogla, Israel, spoke about how her life has changed since her husband, Col. Zvika Luft, was killed in a helicopter crash during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He was 42 and left behind his wife and three daughters.

First Sgt. Nikoline Baron Larsen, a native of Denmark, talked about her experience as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. Larsen, who served three years in the IDF, is a student at Cleveland State University.

Irwin Haber, chairman of the FIDF Ohio chapter, also offered remarks.

The IDF Ensemble performed musical selections.