What do you get when you put 350 people in a room to benefit well-being and educational programs for Israeli soldiers? Record-breaking attendance with food, friends and education. Over 350 leaders from the Westchester community attended the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) dinner on the evening of September 17, where they had the chance to meet some of Israel’s finest men and women who are fighting for their country. The event empowered attendees to learn more about FIDF’s various programming for Israel’s defenders, and was co-chaired by Hyla and Steve Ruby, Jonathan and Lynette Tulkoff, and Aram and Shari Rubinson.
FIDF is a nonprofit that was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors, with the mission to offer programming to the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide, as well as supporting families of soldiers and wounded veterans. Emphasizing educational, cultural, recreational and social programming, FIDF has various ongoing initiatives but also maintains facilities that give soldiers hope, purpose and life-changing support. Today, FIDF has more than 150,000 loyal supporters globally and 16 regional offices within the United States and Panama.
Their mission was accomplished during this monumental dinner event. In attendance were 1st Lt. Sivan, an Ethiopian Israeli who is serving as an officer in the IDF Spokesperson’s unit, 1st Lt. Nir, who has recovered successfully after an ambush by Hamas that also killed three of his friends and left him badly injured, Sgt. Alexander, a lone soldier from New Rochelle who serves in a combat infantry unit and Cpl. Margot from Harrison, NY, and who serves in the special operations canine unit.
Sarit Gomez, the widow of Israeli Air Force Captain Daniel Gomez, z”l, also spoke. Her late husband was a helicopter pilot who was killed during the Second Lebanon War. Their son, Aviya Daniel Gomez, joined the IDF musical ensemble to pay tribute to his late father.
A keynote was delivered by Mosab Hassan Yousef, known by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, as “The Green Prince.” Yousef, the son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, used his connection to Hamas to become Shin Bet’s most valuable intelligence resource and helped prevent dozens of attacks on both soldiers and civilians. In 2007, Yousef fled the West Bank and has been in the U.S. ever since.
“I am humbled to be among the real heroes tonight,” Yousef said. “In their war against the enemies of that which is right—the enemies of humanity—the IDF has to make tough choices. During the First Intifada, I saw Israeli soldiers rescue Palestinian victims from a collapsed building in Ramallah—and people thanked them by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at them on their way out of the city. The IDF’s mission is complex and very difficult.”
His story was an inspiration to all. Co-chair Hyla Ruby was inspired “to see how someone literally born into terrorism could change for the better and help save so many lives.” Perhaps it’s true that there is a “potential for peace,” she said.
In attendance included many FIDF dignitaries, including national chairman Arthur Stark, national president Peter Weintraub of Scarsdale, national board members Marc Jason and Wendy Moskowitz, national director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir, FIDF Westchester/Connecticut director Anat Chavkin and FIDF/Westchester Connecticut development associate Ali Picheny.
By Tamar Weinberg