NEW YORK – Some 1,400 supporters of the IDF, Jewish and non-Jewish, Israeli and American, came to the Waldorf Astoria to declare their love of Israel and the young people who defend it for the Friends of the IDF’s annual New York gala.
The event on Tuesday evening raised around $20 million for the IDF, with individual pledges of upwards of $1.5 million for support of the lone soldiers program and many others.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared via video, thanking the FIDF for its support.
“Our army is a complement to Israel’s sovereignty,” Netanyahu said. “There are those who seek to extinguish our lives. Anti-Semitism always changes its garland. But we have resolved to fight back. Thank you for helping the IDF fight back and secure a Jewish future.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz spoke next, thanking the FIDF for its steadfastness.
“I want to deeply and honestly thank you for your committed work and for setting an example. I’m grateful to be here. You strengthen our nation as a whole,” he said.
Gantz described Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a “good friend,” and said “every meeting emphasized the depth of the bond between our countries.
“The threat we face today is constantly changing,” Gantz said. “The IDF wakes up to this every morning. We cannot predict how each day will pan out, whether we discover a terrorist tunnel leading to a residential neighborhood, or seize a ship filled with weapons bound for terrorists. Last week shows us the complex reality of our world. Under the surface, our enemies are building a bustling industry of terrorism. They go to great lengths to conceal, but we go to greater lengths to uncover it. Let me thank you for standing with our soldiers.”
Ganz ended his speech by calling the names of 30 active duty IDF soldiers, American-Israeli and Sabra, and asking them to stand and receive the audience’s applause.
Fox News commentator Monica Crowley and FIDF Dinner Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond, hosted the evening Crowley said he had been told she was “Israel’s second-favorite American blonde after Scarlett Johansson.”
Stark told The Jerusalem Post the IDF was the “lifeblood and backbone of the Jewish people.
“The alignment between Israel and America is absolute,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a better partnership.”
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Jerry Gershon, who is about to retire as FIDF national director and CEO after five-and-a-half years, told the Post he would miss the people affiliated with the NGO the most. “It’s all about the people and about making connections people-to-people,” Gershon said. “That’s the secret of our organization. We’re non-military and non-political, but we try to emphasize the Jewish community and strengthen the Zionist effort.”
The evening featured a surprise live video appearance from OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, who demonstrated some of the latest simulation technology with the help of two IAF pilots.
The evening ended with an address from Yael Shiffenbauer, widow of squadron commander and helicopter pilot Col. Daniel Shiffenbauer, who was killed in a crash during a rescue mission in Romania in 2010.
Shiffenbauer spoke about her family’s emotional journey and her pride that despite their father’s death, her three sons were all serving or still intended to serve.
Attendees at the event included Post columnist Rabbi Shmuley Boteach; Izzy Ezagui, who lost arm in Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and reenlisted; Ziv Shilon, a commander who recently lost a hand in an explosion near Gaza; as well as FIDF National Chairwoman Nily Falic; Israel military attaché in the US and Canada Maj.-Gen. Yaacob Ayish; IAF attaché to the US and Canada Brig.-Gen. Yakov Shaharabani; IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen.
Motti Almoz; former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; New York Yankees president Randy Levine; American tycoon Mort Zuckerman; sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer; and executive director of the FIDF Tri-State Region, Richard Goldstein.