Celebrities Gerard Butler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gene Simmons, Seal and business leaders among 1,200 in attendance to support Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers.
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) raised a record $53.8 million at its annual Western Region Gala on Thursday, Nov. 2, at the landmark Beverly Hilton Hotel. The figure represents the most money raised at any single FIDF event in the organization’s history. The sold-out gala, which has become one of Los Angeles’ premier charitable events, united some 1,200 supporters from across the country to support the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
For the 11th year, FIDF National Board Member and major supporter Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, chaired the star-studded gala. Guests included prominent business, philanthropic, and political leaders and celebrated names in entertainment, fashion, sports, and technology, including Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg; Dutch LLC CEO Serge Azria and his wife, Florence; Managing Member of R.H. Book LLC and Chairman of Jet Support Services Inc. Robert Book and his wife, Amy; Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz; GUESS Founders Maurice and Paul Marciano; and Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his wife, Joelle. Celebrity guests included Miss Israel 2013 Yityish Titi Aynaw, Gerard Butler, David Foster, Joanna Krupa, Katharine McPhee, Paul Reubens, Melissa Rivers, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Year after year, the support from the Los Angeles community for this remarkable event continues to amaze me, and this year’s gala is no exception,” said Mr. Saban. “Cheryl and I are grateful for the outpouring of support for this great cause and are deeply honored by this year’s record-breaking donations. Chairing this event for the past 11 years has been a great privilege, and we look forward to furthering FIDF’s noble mission of providing well-being and educational programs for the IDF’s brave heroes – and seeing our community welcome Israel’s men and women in uniform with open arms.”
The top donation announced at the event – and the largest single gift in FIDF’s history – was $16.6 million from Oracle Co-Founder, Executive Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison. His donation will support the construction of well-being facilities on a new training campus for the IDF’s coed infantry units.
Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Israeli actress and model Moran Atias. The event featured special performances by singer Seal, The Tenors, David Foster & Friends, and Gene Simmons.
The gala also featured a moving program, “Heroes of the IDF,” which told the stories of women combat soldiers, who play integral roles in safeguarding the State of Israel and its people. Today, 95 percent of all jobs in the IDF are open to women, who serve as pilots, infantry soldiers, artillery combat soldiers, electronic warfare specialists, and anti-aircraft and naval officers – and as many as 11 percent of combat soldiers drafted each year are women.
Funds raised at the gala will provide much-needed and well-deserved services such as academic scholarships to combat veterans, financial assistance for soldiers in-need, support for Lone Soldiers throughout their service and upon release, crucial aid for wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, weeks of rest and recuperation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening presented a rare and exclusive opportunity to pay tribute to the State of Israel and its brave men and women in uniform.