Some 450 community leaders gathered for the Friends of theIsrael Defense Forces (FIDF) San Francisco Bay Area Gala Dinner, raising over $1 million to support well-being and educational programs for the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Sunday’s gala at the Park Central Hotel was FIDF’s largest and most successful in San Francisco since the chapter began five years ago.

The gala featured speeches from IDF soldiers and officers, including IDF Cyber Command Chief of Staff Brig.Gen. Yaron Rosen, a former Apache helicopter pilot and 30-year veteran of the Israeli Air Force, where he most recently commanded the Air Support and Helicopter Air Division; wounded 1st Lt. Nir, who, with FIDF’s support, has made a successful recovery after his special operations task force was ambushed by Hamas, killing three of his friends and leaving him badly injured; and Staff Sgt. (Res.) Sahar, a Lone Soldier – one who enlists in the IDF without having any immediate family in Israel – originally from California who was awarded aChief of the General Staff Citation for his outstanding gallantry during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

“During Protective Edge, my unit and I were stationed in southern Gaza, lying in ambush for a terror cell operating out of a mosque. Heavily armed terrorists arrived and we found ourselves under intense fire,” said Sahar. “My commander ordered us to move into the mosque, but I could only think of keeping my friends safe. I took cover against the wall near one of the buildings and returned fire on the terrorists. My weapon jammed, and I thought I was going to die. Fortunately, I was able to clear the jam and neutralize the terrorists.”

The evening also featured a special performance of classical music by the IDF Orchestra. Welcoming the guests was Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Andy David. Co-Chairing the gala were Ricki and Zvi Alon, Nancy and Steve Grand, Susan and Moses Libitzky, Luba Troyanovsky and Dr. Nik Wolfson, who is also the FIDF San Francisco chairman.

“The success and amazing turnout at Sunday’s sold-out gala shows just how much FIDF’s mission resonates with the San Francisco community,” said Wolfson. “It was an incredible way to strengthen the bonds between members of our community and the brave soldiers who defend Israel and Jews around the world. They were able to learn more about the tremendous impact FIDF’s programs have – and to truly connect with some of the people who benefit from those programs.”