Atlanta has 30 lone soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces, but the Friends of the IDF emphasized at its annual gala dinner Monday night, May 2, that it always provides those troops and the 2,600 others from more than 60 countries with the physical and emotional support of a family.

“We must show our appreciation and love for Israel’s greatest young men and women,” FIDF Southeast Region Executive Director Seth Baron told the crowd of more than 450 at the InterContinental Buckhead.

The event paid tribute to lone soldiers — those who Southeast Region Chairman Garry Sobel said make the “courageous decision” to leave their homes and families overseas to volunteer in the IDF.

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

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

“Their families and their communities have instilled in each of them a strong sense of the importance of their Jewish identity and ensuring Israel’s survival,” Sobel said. He told of a 2014 meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who said lone soldiers represent the children of the Diaspora coming home to defend Israel and demonstrate to Israelis that Jews around the world care.

The program featured two lone soldiers: Walton High School and Georgia Tech graduate Eran Mordel, a paratrooper staff sergeant, and Emma Browne of Warwickshire, England, a military police sergeant.

Browne, who said the rising anti-Semitism in the world helped her decide to join the IDF instead of the British army, described the pride and pressure at age 19 of commanding troops defending Israel’s border and thanked the FIDF for paying for trips to visit her family.

Retired British Col. Richard Kemp, who delivered an impassioned defense of the IDF’s morality in the gala’s keynote address, said he has “never met such an impressive young woman as Emma.”

But for the Atlanta crowd, the highlights were Mordel and the surprise appearances of two fellow Atlanta lone soldiers, neither of whom may be identified.

“There is nothing coincidental about Israel,” Mordel said. “Not its Jewish identity. Not its beautiful beaches or gorgeous cities. Not its startup spirit, and, no, not even its defense forces.