For the past 70 years, the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces have been risking their lives to protect Israel and Jews around the world. Every day, we are reminded of what it has taken, for Jewish people living in and outside of Israel, to guarantee the survival of the state. We must never forget the role soldiers of the IDF have played in defending our beloved Jewish homeland, and what it was like for Jews before we had our own country, before the soldiers of the IDF were there for protection.
As we celebrate 70 years of countless heroes and endless hope – without which Israel could not have endured – we thank and salute those who have sacrificed their lives and pledged to the next generations that Israel will always remain our safe home.
Our organization, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, works tirelessly to care for the IDF soldiers, and offer them well-being, educational and recreational programs and services, in an effort to ease the burden placed on their young shoulders and provide some respite and relief.
This month, FIDF is partnering with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to provide $1.5 million in Rosh Hashanah gift cards so that more than 10,000 IDF soldiers in need and Lone Soldiers can celebrate a sweet new year.
There are 6,330 Lone Soldiers serving in the IDF today. Fifty-three percent of them come from abroad, hailing from 75 countries around the world – and about 795 are American, with nearly 30 of them originally from metro Atlanta. In June, FIDF sponsored the biggest-ever “Fun Day” for Lone Soldiers to kick off Israel’s IDF Appreciation Week, and these gift cards are just the latest example of how FIDF cares for Lone Soldiers financially, socially and emotionally during and after their challenging military service. FIDF also sponsors flights for Lone Soldiers to visit their families and friends in their countries of origin. FIDF’s Lone Soldiers Program is one of its flagship initiatives – and a source of pride for the Atlanta community.
Besides caring for the well-being of Israel’s Lone Soldiers, FIDF initiates and supports many other educational and well-being programs for IDF soldiers, such as the LEGACY program, which this summer brought 60 children and siblings of fallen IDF soldiers to the United States for summer camps, and the IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which grants college scholarships to Israeli combat veterans of modest means.
We in Atlanta and the Southeast proudly support these courageous young men and women. During the 2017-18 academic year, the Atlanta community sponsored 62 FIDF IMPACT! Scholarships – worth $16,000 apiece – for IDF veterans to pursue their academic dreams, and our community is sponsoring more than 85 scholarships for the upcoming school year.
Five years ago, as part of the FIDF Adopt-A-Brigade Program, the FIDF Southeast Region adopted the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. The program allows supporters to go beyond their donations and get more involved, providing financial aid for soldiers in need and their families, supporting Lone Soldiers, and funding general well-being activities and weeks of rest and recuperation for soldiers of the adopted brigade.
FIDF also recognizes the important need to think about the next generation – and recruit and cultivate future leaders. The Southeast Region’s Young Leadership has seen tremendous growth over the past three years and has become an essential part of FIDF’s success in Atlanta.
Legends & Heroes of the IDF, our annual end-of-the-year donor appreciation event will be held on Monday, December 10, at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. This program allows our supporters the opportunity to meet Israeli soldiers and hear firsthand about the tremendous impact FIDF’s educational and well-being programs have on their lives.
On behalf of FIDF, I wish you a good and sweet new year. Please help us wish the same to Israel’s brave men and women in uniform by signing our Rosh Hashanah card online at www.join.fidf.org/rosh-hashanah-2018.