Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) raised $60 million at its annual Western Region Gala on Thursday.
Held at the landmark Beverly Hilton Hotelt, he figure represents the most money raised at any single FIDF event in the organization’s history. The sold-out gala, which has become one of Los Angeles’ premier charitable events, united over 1,200 supporters from across the country to support the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Guests at the star-studded gala included prominent names such as actor Ashton Kutcher, pop star Pharrell Williams, actor Gerard Butler, and vocalist Katharine McPhee.
“We are thrilled that so many members of our community, including major Hollywood figures, are coming together to help us support the brave men and women of the IDF,” said event organizer and business mogul Haim Saban. “
Cheryl and I are extremely proud to chair this event for the 12th year, and to be part of this incredible organization that inspires more and more supporters and contributions every year.”
The top donations announced at the event were $10 million from Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson and $10 million from Haim and Cheryl Saban.
Rabbi Eckstein, who has contributed more than $45 million to FIDF in the last few years, donated $5 million at the gala. “We are so deeply grateful to FIDF for the commendable support they provide the real heroes of Israel, the men and women on the front lines, and The Fellowship is proud to be their partner in this vital mission," said Eckstein.
The event featured a special performance by Pharrell Williams. Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Staff Sgt. (Res.) Izzy Ezagui, an American who moved to Israel, became a decorated squad commander in the IDF, and returned to the battlefield after losing an arm in combat.
The gala presented a moving program, which told the 70-year history of Israel through the eyes of its heroes, including the multigenerational story of the Duvdevani family, whose members are commended for their heroic actions protecting Israel.
The experiences of the IDF’s paramedics – the heroes behind the heroes – were shared through the stories of Staff Sgt. Yotam, a paramedic in the Paratroopers’ Brigade, who helped an American soldier in need of critical medical treatment during Operation Swift Response, an international exercise in Poland;
Staff Sgt. Erez, who served as a combat medic in the “Egoz” unit of the Golani Brigade during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, and supported his unit in the Shuja’iyeh neighborhood of Gaza, arriving at the scene under heavy fire and saving the life of his severely injured commander; and Lt. Noam, a paramedic in the Armored Corps who attempted to perform resuscitation on a critically wounded soldier during Operation Protective Edge, despite his low chances of survival.
Guests also celebrated the triumph of the human spirit as Col. Shai Siman-Tov, who was critically wounded during Operation Protective Edge, shared his story. His injuries left him paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair; however, undeterred by his injury, Shai returned to the IDF and is now a team leader at the Tactical Command College. In 2017, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
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 throughout their service and upon release, 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.