Friends of the Israel Defense Forces attracted a trove of truly loyal friends who came out in the bone chilling 25-degree weather Nov. 12 to the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center for a stimulating program.
During the annual FIDF Southeast region donor appreciation reception, current IDF soldiers mingled with avid supporters, especially those who have sponsored IMPACT! scholarships for retired soldiers to receive an education.
Mitchell Kopelman had just returned from Israel where he visited his scholar. “He had just gotten married and started engineering school. They were super appreciative and could not have afforded college on their own.”
Barry and Herman Schwarz with their father Michael keep in touch with their 28-year-old IMPACT! grad student.
Felicia Maltese Voloschin said, “I feel passionate about Israel and its freedom, preserving the front line. We need to help them all we can.” Marsha Spector also went to Israel to visit over Passover and shared, “Our scholar was majoring in business in Tel Aviv. It’s important to note that the full amount of the scholarship goes directly to him without any administrative costs.”
New Southeast Regional Chair Karen Shulman kicked off the reception, noting that she has big shoes to fill in replacing Garry Sobel. She shared that IDF soldiers since 2002 constitute the largest volunteer program in Israel with 6 million community service hours.
During 2018, 105,000 soldiers have been helped by the FIDF. Shulman said that supporting soldiers takes funding, and that particularly during this Thanksgiving season, Atlantans need to consider their causes for charitable giving.
A riveting video highlighted very different types of soldiers (some whose faces were not shown): A Charedi soldier who found his place to serve; a Druze whose family members died serving in the IDF and quoted the “The Book of the Covenant” for his inspiration; a visually impaired Ethiopian female who became a commander; a Danish Christian; and lastly, a Palestinian who was homeless for two years because his family “considered him dead” for supporting Israel. His place and home now are in the IDF.
He said, “What the Palestinians taught us about Israel versus what I see are very different things.”
Atlanta native Sgt. (Res.) Zachary Olstein, a lone soldier, explained his journey. (There are 800 lone soldiers from the U.S. and 40 from Atlanta.) As a graduate of The Weber School, he wished he had paid more attention to learning Hebrew because he never thought he would use it until he was stationed at a Hebrew speaking base. Now an IDF counter-terrorist soldier, he shared how his group went into Gaza to clear the way before the tanks could advance. He got his initial inspiration to join the IDF and eventually make aliyah on a teenage trip to Poland.
Israel Consul General to the Southeast Anat Sultan-Dadon had a serious tone in recounting that very morning’s rocket attacks from Gaza as retribution for the IDF killing of a Jihad terrorist and his wife in their home. Sultan-Dadon said, “His death saved lives. …He was a ticking time bomb, … 200 rockets targeted Israeli civilians. The Iron Dome was 90 percent effective. Many hid in shelters.” She reminded those gathered that Palestinian Jihad is financed by Iran.
Seth Baron, FIDF Southeast executive director, introduced an interview between Emory University law professor Laurie Blank, a scholar in armed conflict, and Itai Tsur, president of the FIDF Southeast region. His grandfather, Maj. Gen. Meir Amit (of blessed memory), was the subject of last week’s tribute. Per Baron, “Amit was both head of the Mossad and IDF Intelligence, which was unprecedented.”
Tsur recalled his grandfather’s calmness yet ability to get down to business. As the heir apparent to Moshe Dayan, he was a lifelong learner and innovative thinker based on American techniques, Tsur said. Amit was best remembered for a complicated “jewel in the crown” capture of an Iraqi MiG-21 jet whose pilot defected to Israel with the help of an American spy “girlfriend,” Tsur said. “He and his 48-member family were all given safe haven. … My grandfather realized the important of relationships as currency.”
Amit, injured in 1958 and in a body cast for 16 months, was also known for saying “Man is like a dreidel. As long as he is spinning, he cannot fall.”