Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) hosted its annual Western Region Gala on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at the landmark Beverly Hilton Hotel. The “Making a Difference” Gala, which has become one of L.A.’s premier charitable events, raised $29 million and united 1,000 people from across the country to support the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The FIDF Western Region Gala was held in memory of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (z”l), who dedicated his life to unifying Christians and Jews in support of the State of Israel, was the Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), and steadfastly supported FIDF and its mission.
Joining the event were prominent business, philanthropic, and political leaders and celebrated names in entertainment, fashion, sports, and technology, including longtime FIDF supporters Haim and Cheryl Saban, who had previously chaired the FIDF Western Region Gala for 13 years; David Foster; President and CEO of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and daughter of the late Rabbi Eckstein, Yael Eckstein; Managing Member of R.H. Book LLC and Chairman of Jet Support Services Inc. Robert Book and his wife, Amy; and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin. Israeli-American actress and model Moran Atias emceed the gala.
FIDF’s leadership at the gala included FIDF National Vice President and Western Region Chairman Tony Rubin and his wife, Linda; FIDF National Board Member and Western Region President Ari Ryan and his wife, Rebecca; FIDF Western Region Founder Leo David; FIDF National Chairman Rabbi Peter Weintraub and his wife, Ellen; FIDF National President Bobby Cohen and his wife, Lorraine; FIDF National Chairman Emeritus Nily Falic; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin.
“Cheryl and I are honored to have served as FIDF Western Region Gala chairs for 13 incredible years and are proud to see the outpouring of support that this event continues to receive,” said Haim Saban. “We are gratified to see that the FIDF’s important mission resonates so powerfully in the LA community and are humbled to have gathered with FIDF again this year for a meaningful evening that memorialized our dear friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (z”l).”
“My father was a dedicated and ardent supporter of Israel and its soldiers, and firmly believed in the vital mission of FIDF, caring for the men and women who protect Israel and the Jewish people,” said Yael Eckstein. “I am proud to be part of this big family – a family that celebrates our diversity and embraces our different backgrounds.”
A delegation of both American and Israeli soldiers and veterans attended the gala and addressed the crowd. One such hero, IDF Staff Sgt. (Res.) Amit Kadosh, was part of a special IDF operation to neutralize a senior Hamas terrorist. Upon completing his service, Amit received an academic scholarship through FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which helped him study computer science and business administration at Tel Aviv University. During the event, Amit surprised his girlfriend of seven years, Talya, by proposing on stage.
Other IDF soldiers in attendance included Staff Sgt. (Res.) Izzy Ezagui, an American citizen who moved to Israel, became a decorated squad commander in the IDF, and returned to the battlefield after losing an arm in combat; 1st Lt. Jerusalem, an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier whose visual disability did not stop her from becoming a volunteer officer in the IDF Northern Command; 1st Lt. N., born and raised in a Druze family, who serves in a Paratroopers special unit, despite his parents’ opposition; Cpl. Eden, an IDF Musical Ensemble singer and winner of “The X Factor Israel” reality TV show; Staff Sgt. Y., a Lone Soldier- one who voluntarily enlisted in the IDF without having immediate family in Israel - originally from Pittsburg, PA, who serves in an elite IDF unit; and others.
Top single donations announced at the event included $15 million from Cheryl and Haim Saban, $3 million announced by Yael Eckstein from The Fellowship, and $1 million from Tony and Linda Rubin.
The event featured a special performance by David Foster and Friends.
Funds raised at the gala will provide much-needed and well-deserved services such as academic scholarships to combat veterans, financial assistance for soldiers in-need, support for Lone Soldiers – those who enlist in the IDF without immediate family in Israel, crucial aid for wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, weeks of rest and recuperation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening presented a rare and exclusive opportunity to pay tribute to the state of Israel and its brave men and women in uniform.