A record of more than 800 business and community leaders from the Washington metro gathered on Sunday, June 10, for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Mid-Atlantic Region Annual Gala at the Ronald Regan Building to honor Israel’s soldiers and celebrate 70 years of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Donations are still coming in – and being tallied – but the event is on track to raise a record of more than $1 million to support well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers.

“Our annual gala gave the greater Washington community the chance to celebrate Israel’s brave soldiers, who have watched over Israel and Jews everywhere for 70 years,” said FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas. “It was an amazing opportunity for our supporters to learn about FIDF’s well-being and educational programs for IDF soldiers. They met and heard firsthand from some of the soldiers who benefit from these programs, and had the chance to personally thank them for their service.”

FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas (right) with a proud, Israeli-flag clad FIDF supporter (left).
FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas (right) with a proud, Israeli-flag clad FIDF supporter (left).

Attending or speaking at the gala, chaired by Cookie and Zion Avissar, were IDF soldiers, including 1st Lt. Noam, a combat medic who treated Syrian civil war victims; Israeli Navy Sgt. 1st Class Yotam, who, thanks to FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program, is studying in a dual medical and PhD program; and Israeli Air Force (IAF) 2nd Lt. Daniel, who commands a Patriot missile battery and recently participated in the Juniper Cobra five-day combined military exercise between Israel and the United States. FIDF’s D.C. NEXT young leadership division recently adopted Daniel’s unit. The IDF Musical Ensemble performed a selection of popular and traditional Israeli music.

IDF 1st Lt. Noam spoke about her experience treating Syrian civil war victims
IDF 1st Lt. Noam spoke about her experience treating Syrian civil war victims

Celebrating 70 years of Israel’s rich history, FIDF’s Mid-Atlantic region will construct a $13 million heritage center in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City to connect IDF soldiers with the land and the people they serve and protect. Some of the funds raised at the gala will go toward this project, one of the largest in FIDF’s history, and the highly decorated IDF education officer who will lead this project, Maj. Tom Elgarat, was present to share more about this important project.

Other distinguished guests in attendance included FIDF National Vice President Bobby Cohen, who is the founder and chairman of Daycon, a Washington-area cleaning supplies company; FIDF Mid-Atlantic Chairman Dr. Gary Applebaum; FIDF Washington, D.C., Chairman Arnie Hiller; FIDF Washington, D.C., President Joseph Turitz; FIDF Virginia Chairman Carol Gordon; FIDF Virginia President Cookie Blitz; FIDF Baltimore President Mitch Gold; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Mid-Atlantic Executive Director Ari Dallas; FIDF Baltimore Director Henry M. Rosenbaum; and FIDF Virginia Director Alex Pomerantz.

A record of more than 800 Washington-area business and community leaders gathered at the Ronald Regan Building for the June 10 FIDF Mid-Atlantic Region Annual Gala.
A record of more than 800 Washington-area business and community leaders gathered at the Ronald Regan Building for the June 10 FIDF Mid-Atlantic Region 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; flights home for Lone Soldiers with no immediate family in Israel, and funding rest and recuperation weeks for combat units.

The FIDF Mid-Atlantic region has adopted the soldiers of the Israeli Navy’s 3rd Flotilla. FIDF’s 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 Virginia chapter adopted the Nachal Brigade’s headquarters battalion; FIDF’s Washington, D.C., chapter adopted three Israeli Air Force squadrons, including the new F-35 fighter jet squadron; and FIDF’s Washington, D.C., NEXT young leadership division adopted the IAF’s 139th anti-aircraft battalion. FIDF’s Adopt-A-Brigade Program supports soldiers in the adopted units, provides financial assistance to soldiers’ in-need, and cares for Lone Soldiers.