More than 500 community leaders gathered for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Atlanta Gala Dinner, raising some $450,000 to support educational and well-being programs for the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). One of the Atlanta Jewish community’s largest events, featured a keynote speech by retired British Col. Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Kemp, an outspoken critic of Hamas who has defended Israeli military operations in testimony to the UN, lauded the IDF as one of the most moral armies in the world, saying, “I am not aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as does the IDF to protect the lives of civilians.”

Kemp added: “No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of warning procedures – including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops – that the IDF employs and are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.”

The evening paid tribute to the IDF’s Lone Soldiers – those who decide to leave their countries, homes, and families in order to go to Israel and serve in the IDF without having any immediate family in Israel. 

“Currently, there are 30 Lone Soldiers from Atlanta serving in the IDF – and this number has remained constant over the past few years, with new members of our community joining the IDF as others finish their service,” said FIDF National Board Member and Southeast Region Chairman Garry Sobel. “Our Lone Soldiers and their families represent the strength and the commitment of our community’s role in ensuring the safety and future of the State of Israel.”

Attending were active-duty and former Israeli soldiers, as well as prominent local and national community leaders, including FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir and FIDF Southeast Region Executive Director Seth Baron.

“I grew up acutely aware that Israel was infinitely more than a country that happened to be Jewish,” said Sgt. Eran, a Lone Soldier from Atlanta who fought with the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. "While I fought for that idea with a few thousand other soldiers, we had the support of millions around the world – our socks came from Canada, underwear from California, and energy bars from all over the East Coast. I know this because the boxes were labeled ‘FIDF,’ reminding me who our true friends are.”

The funds raised at this event will go toward FIDF well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers, including: the Adopt-a-Brigade Program, which supports soldiers in-need and funds rest and recuperation weeks for the FIDF Southeast Region’s adopted brigade, the IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Corps; the IMPACT! Program, which grants full academic scholarships to IDF combat veterans; the Lone Soldiers Program, which supports soldiers with no immediate family in Israel; and the Wounded Veterans Program, which provides wounded veterans with physical, social, and psychological services and special prosthetics.