By Marcia Jaffe | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces gathered Tuesday, May 19, at the Georgia Aquarium to salute outgoing Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran and his wife, Talyah, and to honor the women of the IDF.
Brig. Gen. Gila Klifi-Amir, the former adviser on women’s affairs to the IDF chief of staff and the wife of the head of the FIDF, Maj. Gen. Meir Klifi-Amir, served as the featured speaker. She was joined by three women who served in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, Lt. Mor Rozenberg, Lt. Roni Johnson and Staff Sgt. Yonat Daskal, in speaking on behalf the IDF’s female troops, who are eligible for 95 percent of IDF roles.
The FIDF is the only nonprofit in the United States whose sole mission is to provide support, care, education and overall well-being for IDF soldiers.
“Tonight our community embraces these soldiers with a record crowd of over 500. We celebrate the IDF men and women with a night of great stories,” said Seth Baron, the executive director of the FIDF Southeast Region.
Congregation Etz Chaim Rabbi Shalom Lewis said: “We have two nephews and a niece who served. We are so proud of them. When we visited Israel last summer during the war, we were impressed with how the soldiers comported themselves. Despite various criticisms, they were exemplary. G-d bless them.”
Fit female soldiers milled about during the pre-ceremony cocktail hour with fashionable painted nails and heavy lace-up boots. Some refused to be photographed for security reasons.
Johnson, who is from Ashdod, develops training programs. Her father is a convert and an American. Some of her mother’s family died in the Holocaust.
“Together with AIPAC, this is the most important organization I support,” Norman Radow said. “My son Neil made aliyah and served. I know firsthand what they go through every day. And with such humility.”
Paul Reisman and Jennifer Malkin were among the attendees who wore special Impact ribbons, noting their financial support for a program that spends $4,000 per soldier per year to ensure that IDF veterans can go to college for four years.
Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife, Sandra, sent a video tribute to the Avirans, and the governor praised the IDF for standing up to the challenge of protecting Israel.
Ambassador Aviran was celebrated as a team player, and in his brief response, he said that of all his posts for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — including the Netherlands, Australia and Myanmar — Atlanta is his favorite.
Garry Sobel, the chairman of the FIDF Southeast Region, praised the 90 percent success rate of the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
He recognized Atlanta parents of the 30 “lone soldiers” from the area who are serving in the IDF. “They leave their family and homes to go over there and protect us.”
The fundraising dinner came shortly after the IDF’s humanitarian mission in Nepal, where more than 250 troops provided search-and-rescue services and set up and staffed a field hospital after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit that Himalayan nation April 25.
“You have to just love Israel,” Rabbi Michoel Lipschutz said.