More than 450 people packed the ballroom at the InterContinental Buckhead on Monday night, May 2, to help the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces support Israel’s troops, with a particular focus this year on lone soldiers.

Suzanne Eisenberg of Sandy Springs has two sons serving as lone soldiers, Mathew in an infantry unit and David in a tank unit. She said she and husband Joel visit Israel two or three times a year to see their sons, who get to come home for a month a year, and they use Whatsapp every other day to communicate.

FIDF Southeast Region Executive Director Seth Baron explains the commitment of FIDF and the Diaspora to Israel’s soldiers.

FIDF Southeast Region Executive Director Seth Baron explains the commitment of FIDF and the Diaspora to Israel’s soldiers.

“They have only one hour to get in from the field, shower and talk,” she said. “I will say they appreciate us more. They request personal items like toothpaste and gum that we take for granted. This has been David’s dream since he was 16, and he will stay. Mathew has one more year to decide and is debating his future.”

Eran Mordel, an East Cobb resident who fought in the 2014 Gaza war after graduating from Georgia Tech and was one of the lone soldier speakers at the gala, said: “The FIDF is a lifeline of support for soldiers to feel loved. I remember being on the front and doorstep of Gaza and getting a comforting care package.”

“Helping these soldiers is a part of who we are,” said Garry Sobel, the FIDF Southeast Region chairman and a national board member. “They are part of our family, and it’s our responsibility to help because their hearts tell them to serve.”

Tsur Fabian, who was an officer in the IDF Special Forces years ago, said his son is joining the IDF in August. “I am very proud of him. My wife is a tad fearful.”

Isaac Barel, who served in the IDF many years ago, said: “My son will soon go into service. It’s important that we help with better equipment that improves their lives as well as higher education later on.”

One of the fundraising focuses for FIDF’s Southeast Region is the Project Impact scholarship program, which pays for college for IDF veterans.

“We must show our appreciation and love for Israel’s greatest young men and women,” FIDF Southeast Region Executive Director Seth Baron said.

“Supporting Israel and the IDF are the most important things Jews in the Diaspora can do,” said retired British Col. Richard Kemp, a Roman Catholic and fervent defender of the IDF who delivered the keynote address May 2.

“It is important for the younger generation here to help soldiers in the IDF keep Israel safe,” IDF Young Leadership supporter Toni Mishael said. “We want to set an example for Atlanta.”

The FIDF Southeast Region is planning its first mission to Israel from Sept. 9 to 16. For more information, visit www.fidfse.wix.com/mission2016, or call 678-250-9030.

Photos by Marcia Caller Jaffe and Michael Jacobs