Leading supporters of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces gathered at The Temple on Tuesday, Dec. 8, to pay tribute to what Southeast Region Chairman Garry Sobel called “modern-day Maccabees.”
“Their job is to look after Israel, and our job is to look after them,” Sobel said, noting that the region was just $50,000 short of hitting its $1 million goal as the year nears its end.
He shared slides from a recent national FIDF mission to bases in Israel, including the Sharon Base in the Negev, where he planted trees in the sand a year or so ago and where “now we see the glorious library, synagogue and sports complex, all built by the FIDF.”
FIDF Southeast Executive Director Seth Baron said the purpose of the “Legends and Heroes” program was to focus on the soldiers and FIDF’s success at supporting them. He said the organization ensured that more than 9,000 soldiers in need could serve free of financial burdens by providing welfare assistance throughout the year, including over 22,000 holiday gift vouchers.”
FIDF’s efforts included support for more than 50 Lone Soldiers from the Southeast, 30 of them from the Atlanta area, and for the Southeast Region’s adopted unit, the Combat Intelligence Brigade, which has become the IDF’s largest brigade and earned the title “The Eyes and Ears of Israel.”
One of the emotional highlights of the night was a speech by Lt. Inbal Greentzwig, 22, an IDF education officer, whose twin brother, Avi, was killed in 2014 in Operation Protective Edge while trying to rescue a fellow soldier after carrying another wounded comrade to safety.
Greentzwig said her brother died the way he lived: taking care of his family and friends.
She said he would probably wonder about all the fuss over him, including the awarding of one of Israel’s top military decorations. “ ‘After all,’ he would say, ‘I was just doing what was expected of me and of every soldier in the IDF,’ ” his sister said. “But, as always, Avi did more, much more. He paid the supreme price.”
His commander, Maj. Gilad Pasternak, who was about five feet from Avi when he was killed, also attended the FIDF event because he is completing an eight-month course at Fort Benning in Columbus. Also there was Avi’s girlfriend, Melory Walters, who is joining Greentzwig on a U.S. tour to support FIDF.
“In many ways, the IDF and its soldiers would not be what they are today without you,” she said. “I believe that with all my heart, and, for that reason alone, I wanted to share with you the story of my twin brother, Avi.”
Israeli national hero Zvika Greengold, for whom the Zvika Force was named, also told his story, describing the tank battle he led against Syrian tanks in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War. That action earned him Israel’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
“It means the world to me now, with the world in turmoil and Israel’s defamation by the media, that we support those who help defend that great country,” Atlanta-area lawyer Ben Levy said. “It’s a matter of survival.”
Barry Schwarz, also a local lawyer, said: “These young people make an incredible sacrifice and deserve our support. Plus, on a lighter note, my daughter finds these soldiers very attractive.”
Sobel’s compelling thought for the evening: “These soldiers’ roles are not to take lives, but to save them. Just look at the miracle of the Iron Dome in Gaza.”