Some 700 supporters from the Baltimore area gathered on Tuesday, Oct. 23, for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Baltimore Annual Gala at the Martin’s Valley Mansion to salute the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the Baltimore FIDF Chapter.

In attendance at the gala, which raised more than $750,000 for the well-being of IDF soldiers, were local Baltimore-area Lone Soldiers who formerly served in the IDF without immediate family in Israel. There was also a delegation of local Holocaust survivors at the event.

“The gala was an amazing opportunity for our supporters to learn about FIDF’s well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers and to meet and hear firsthand from the brave young men and women who benefit from these programs,” said FIDF Baltimore Director Henry Rosenbaum. “And, most importantly, this gave our community the chance to celebrate 70 years of Israeli heroes.”

The IDF musical ensemble performs during the FIDF Baltimore Annual Gala
The IDF musical ensemble performs during the FIDF Baltimore Annual Gala

The evening’s program featured several Israeli soldiers, including Capt. Or, the first female soldier to command a Patriot Battery, and who recently employed an advanced air defense system to shoot down a Syrian airplane and drone that invaded Israeli airspace this past July; 2nd Lt. Noam, the Deputy Commander of the Front Medical Company who served as a paramedic during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, where she aided soldiers with severe injuries, and as part of Operation Good Neighbor to help Syrian refugees; Sgt. Maj. T., who serves in an elite Israeli Navy unit - one of the best special forces in the world; 1st Sgt. Sahar, a combat soldier in the elite Rimoni unit of Givati, who received a Chief of Staff award for singlehandedly protecting his team against five heavily armed terrorists; and Capt. Y., an Israeli Air Force pilot.

Hanan “Bean” Sibel, a well-known and respected Baltimore Jewish community leader, chaired the dinner, and the distinguished guests in attendance included FIDF National Board Member Bill Fox, who co-founded the Baltimore chapter; FIDF Baltimore President and chapter co-founder Mitch Gold; FIDF Baltimore Chapter Co-Founder Ron Eisenberg; FIDF Mid-Atlantic Region Chair Dr. Gary Applebaum; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas.

FIDF MidAtlantic Region Chair Dr. Gary Applebaum during the FIDF Baltimore Annual Gala
FIDF MidAtlantic Region Chair Dr. Gary Applebaum during the FIDF Baltimore Annual Gala

The funds raised at this event will go toward FIDF well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers, including FIDF’s Adopt-A-Brigade Program; the FIDF LEGACY Program, which supports the widows, orphans, and other family members of fallen IDF soldiers through a variety of recreational activities and life-cycle celebrations; and the FIDF SPIRIT Program, which provides weeks of rest and recuperation – swimming, sports, great food, and nightly entertainment – for Israeli combat soldiers at state-of-the-art FIDF facilities in Israel.

The FIDF Mid-Atlantic region has adopted the soldiers of the Israeli Navy’s 3rd Flotilla and the Baltimore Chapter adopted the IDF Home Front Command’s Kedem Battalion, a search and rescue unit that conducts emergency operations in Israel and abroad. FIDF’s Adopt-A-Brigade Program supports soldiers in the adopted brigades by providing financial assistance to soldiers in-need, caring for Lone Soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and funding rest and recuperation weeks for combat units.