Some 800 members of the Miami community gathered on Wednesday, Jan. 24, for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Greater Miami Solidarity Gala, which raised $2.4 million to support well-being and educational programs for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

The gala, which honored Israel’s soldiers and celebrated 70 years of the IDF, was chaired by Oren and Rene Kattan and featured a keynote address by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Also speaking were uniformed IDF soldiers and officers, including 2nd Lt. Noam, a woman combat paramedic who treated wounded Syrian civil war victims; 1st Lt. Don, who commands Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile interceptions; Israeli Navy Capt. “Y.,” the grandson of Holocaust survivors and a submarine fire control officer; and Israeli Air Force (IAF) Maj. “D.,” a squadron leader and one of the first pilots to test the IAF’s new F-35 fighter jet.

Rita Shmulevsky at FIDF Miami Gala

“As they did 70 years ago, the brave men and women of the IDF still put their lives on the line every day to protect Israel and Jews around the world,” said FIDF Florida Executive Director Dina Ben-Ari. “This evening gave our supporters the chance to hear from steadfast supporter of Israel Mike Huckabee – and they were able to meet and personally thank some of the brave soldiers who risk everything to defend the Jewish homeland.”

The gala also honored Tibor Feldmar, FIDF Young Leadership Miami President Emeritus Evan Glassman, Miriam Jacobi Josielewski, and Malcia Rothstein for their commitment to Israel’s troops.

Mike Huckabee at FIDF Miami Gala

Distinguished guests also included FIDF National Chairman Emeritus Nily Falic; FIDF Miami President Oscar Feldenkreis; and FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir.

Miami Gala Soldiers

FIDF sweepstakes winner Rita Shmulevsky and her husband Mark flew from Portland, Oregon, to attend Wednesday’s gala. Their son Arthur had served as a Lone Soldier – one who volunteers in the IDF without any immediate family in Israel.