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Honoring Colonel (Res.) Pinhas (Pinky) Zoaretz Z”L

It is with deepest sorrow that I inform you we lost a dear and close friend, one of our own - part of the FIDF family - 
who passed away earlier today.   Many of you knew Pinky personally from his time with FIDF; I was privileged to know Pinky for over 30 years. 

 The unexpected news of his passing hit me like a sudden thunderbolt on a clear day.  Pinky was a lifelong friend of mine, a brother-in-arms, a true human being and commander.  I had the honor of having Pinky under my command for part of his service.  He was someone who always led with courage and determination – a person who dedicated his life to the security of and public service for the state of Israel.  I will never forget the day I visited him at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva after he was gravely wounded by an IED which detonated under his vehicle, resulting in the loss of his leg.  While he lay in his bed, moaning with pain, the one question that bothered him most was when he would be able to put his uniform back on and return to command his troops.  The fact that he did return to command his troops and complete his service after a long and courageous recovery process, is a testament to his determination and heroic nature.

Once Pinky completed his tenure with the IDF, he continued his service to Israel, the IDF, and the IDF soldiers by serving as FIDF Deputy National Director from 2011 – 2013, truly beloved by all who knew him.  He returned to Israel in 2013 and served as the head of the Benyamina-Givat Ada municipality.

We, the FIDF family, bow our heads in Pinky’s honor in a last salute to him and send our condolences and love to his wife Tami, his children, and his grieving family.  He will always remain in our hearts.



An Open Letter from Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir


We tragically laid to rest and parted from four young IDF cadets currently in the IDF's officer training program — all beautiful souls below the age of 22, with their entire lives ahead of them — may their memories always be for a blessing. It deeply saddens me that one of my first emails of the year is regarding the tragic terrorist attack that took their lives in Jerusalem.

This event serves as another reminder of the radical terrorists, who continue to attack the values at the core of the Jewish people, and the democracies of the free world. The struggle continues between the powers of light and of darkness, between enlightened cultures and radical extremists determined to ruin the common values of humanity.

Armon Hanatziv, the neighborhood which contained the popular promenade where the attack took place, is a place where people — citizens and tourists alike — would expect to be free to enjoy the beauty of Jerusalem, with its 2000 years of history and the holiest site for the three major world religions. Yet this horrible event sadly reminds us that there is no place exempt from the barbaric nature of terrorism in today's world.

This horrifying event, like so many others, reminds all of us that Israeli soldiers are not only at risk as they watch the frontlines or are in military operations protecting Israel's citizens. The fact is that as the defenders of the Jewish homeland and Jews worldwide, they are always targets — no matter where they are — for radical extremists. In yesterday's attack, a group of young soldiers were simply taking part in an educational tour of Jerusalem, Israel's eternal capital, as part of their officers' training, with the sole purpose of strengthening their identity and roots in the only Jewish homeland that exists.

As an organization which touches the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers each year, our work takes on an even deeper and stronger meaning in my eyes and in the eyes of these soldiers and the citizens of Israel. Our mission is even beyond all the programs which give the soldiers of the IDF a better every day and brighter future. It is to help lift their morale by ensuring that they know they are not alone and that we stand together with them; as they look after Israel, we look after them.

Our hearts are with the families of each of these soldiers, who are suffering the worst pain imaginable, the loss of a loved one who barely had the chance to live. Our hearts are also with the seventeen who were wounded and we pray for their speedy and complete recoveries.


Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)

About These Brave Soldiers

Erez Orbach

Erez Orbach, 20, from Alon Shvut, volunteered for IDF service and was a cadet at the IDF's Officer's Training School.


He was born and raised in the settlement of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. He was excelling student at the high school yeshiva he attended in Efrat and later attended the Ma'alot hesder yeshiva, which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service.

Rabbi Yaakov Fisher, the head of Yeshivat Naveh Shmuel where Orbach studied prior to joining the IDF, spoke of Orbach's special qualities as a student and his desire to wear an IDF uniform.


"Erez was a boy full of motivation and was very determined, but also delicate on the inside, with principles, values and love for everyone. He had health problems and due to his low profile, he had to fight to volunteer for the IDF and go to officer's course. His is a very special family."


A special notice went out in Orbach's community of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion following news of his death. "He will be remembered for his perpetual smile and willingness to help for good causes."


Shira Tzur

Shira Tzur, 20, from Haifa, began her military service in the Israeli Air Force flight academy, but transferred to her current unit with the intent of becoming an officer.


According to a family friend, Shira was "full of happiness and loved to give and contribute. She was a counselor in the scouts and excelled in everything she did. Shira and her family were the salt of the earth and we all embrace them at this difficult moment. She was a child full of energy and was always smiling."


Mendi Rabinovich, Principal of the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa, said, "Her teachers said she always dreamed of being a pilot, but in the end, served in the Intelligence Corps. She was a spirited girl, socially active and very loving. It is difficult to believe when we lose graduates."

Shir Hajaj

Shir Hajaj, from Ma'ale Adumim, was the oldest of four daughters. Following news of her death, her father sent a message to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot saying, "These are all our children. We send them to the army and we know that maybe they won't come back. Did I ever think it would happen to me? Never."

Shir's mother, Merav, said that when she saw the report of the terrorist attack, she thought it targeted tourists. Only after discovering that the victims were cadets did she begin to contact hospitals.


"We stood by the door, praying that they (the officers tasked with informing soldiers' families of their death) wouldn't come and every minute they didn't come, we said it was a good thing. I called hospitals, local IDF offices and everywhere else.


"She was a flower and we expected great things from her. She had great determination and perseverance. There are no other children like her."


Yael Yakutiel

Friends and family arrived at the Yakutiel residence in Givatayim to mourn Yael, with many being unable to speak through the tears.


Yael's aunt, Malka Drori, said, "She loved life, loved everybody and everybody loved her. The family is still struggling to deal with what happened."

Friends of Yael said, "She had the biggest heart there is. She was a person full of light and happiness. Everything she did, she did for others. She fought to stay in the army in order to contribute more and be an officer."



REHOVOT, Israel, Jan. 5
– Ten Jewish current and former Major League Baseball players and their families visited the Tel Nof Israeli Air Force Base near Rehovot, Israel, today as part of a trip to Israel in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. The base visit, organized by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), allowed the players to meet and hear firsthand from the fighter pilots who protect Israel’s skies.

The visiting players, led on the trip by FIDF supporter and Jewish Baseball Museum Founder Jeff Aeder of Chicago, included former New York Met Ike Davis; New York Mets players Ty Kelly and Josh Zeid; Oakland Athletics players Ryan Lavarnway and Sam Fuld; Boston Red Sox player Cody Decker; Cincinnati Reds player Jon Moscot; St. Louis Cardinals player Corey Baker; Philadelphia Phillies player Jeremy Bleich; and Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler.

“These 10 Jewish baseball players are visiting Israel for the first time to celebrate the fact that they’ve qualified for the World Baseball Classic,” said Aeder. “I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to expose them to the country and for them to meet some of the brave men and women who defend Israel and Jews everywhere, and derive pride from the Jewish State’s ability to defend itself.”
Aeder added: “It is my great honor to do anything I can to support the soldiers who fight to protect the land of Israel.”

The 10 players will represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic, marking the first time that American Jewish athletes will play for Israel in a world championship. World Baseball Classic rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on that country’s team.

During their tour of Israel, the 10 players and staff practiced on baseball fields and met with Israel Association of Baseball players. They also visited some of Israel’s landmarks and holy sites.
Comrades in arms: FIDF holds Passover Seder for Israeli combat soldiers
Friends of the IDF raises record $33.1 million at New York gala
Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson contribute $10 million to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which recognizes them as "Defenders of Israel" • Sheldon Adelson: If Israel and the IDF had existed before Second World War, Holocaust would not have happened.  READ MORE
My Trip to Israel: Daniel Ungar

FIDF mission to Israel remarkable on many levels

Leaving for a trip with Lane Schlessel (Director, FIDF Ohio Chapter) on October 24th for a two-week jaunt around Israel had me feeling excited, apprehensive and at the same time, in light of events in the news, even intimidated.

I was excited to get back to Israel. It is a diverse and beautiful country in so many ways. Yet, I was apprehensive to leave my family and business for a “guys-only” trip. And I was intimidated because I didn’t know what to expect. Yet I wanted to go to learn where and how some of our family’s philanthropic dollars are spent. I needed to “see to believe”. And I did. It was eye-opening and meaningful.  READ MORE

Local chiropractor reflects on his 385-mile, 6-day bicycle tour through Israel

When Dr. Stephen "Steve" Tosk geared up for a fall cycling trip across Israel sponsored by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, he had heart set on taking in close up all the ancient sights, sounds and history of the nation's ancient culture.

But over the course of six days and 385 miles pedaling along with Israeli soldiers and veterans, Tosk discovered another enduring aspect of Israeli life, where he said people are "constantly under attack."

US Jews Help IDF Soldiers Celebrate Hanukkah at Army Bases
The Connecticut/Westchester branch of Friends of the IDF arranged for a Hanukkah party for Givati soldiers.

The Tri-State Region branch of the U.S. non-profit Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) arranged  for hundreds of Israeli soldiers in the Givati Brigade to celebrate Chanukah a Hanukkah on their bases.

“During Hanukkah, sometimes they don’t get to go home and are instead in the field and on base,” Anat Chavkin, Director of the FIDF Connecticut/Westchester chapter, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “In order to bring Hanukkah to them, we try to arrange these activities to lift their morale.”  READ MORE

He's in the army now
Nineteen days after he graduated from high school, 18-year-old Harrison Adler of Tenafly was en route to Israel.  
Two months after that, he was a lone soldier in the Israel Defense Forces.

It’s not that he has decided not to go to college — Mr. Adler, now 19, has been accepted at the university of his choice and he will matriculate there, an uncommonly mature freshman, in the fall of 2016. But his path to college now includes a detour, one that he had planned for some time.  READ MORE
Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot Appointed as IDF Chief of the General Staff
Israel Defense Forces Former Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz’s four-year term officially ended on Monday, February 16th, as he handed command of Israel’s military to his deputy, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. 

The ceremony celebrated both Gantz’s impressive military career as well as the new Chief of the General Staff’s inauguration.  READ MORE
To Israel and Beyond
A rare expedition to bike the length of Israel was accomplished by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) and their “Israel on Two Wheels” Cycling Tour. Michelle Cohen, who is FIDF Midwest Region Senior Director of Programs and Operations, as well as a participant in the FIDF Cycling Tour, shared a bit about the motivation for this experience.   READ MORE  WATCH THE VIDEO
A “One Stop Shop” for Lone Soldiers

On February 19th, 1,000 Lone Soldiers from different IDF units gathered together at an “Errands Day,” known in Hebrew as Yom Sidurim, sponsored by FIDF in partnership with Nefesh B’Nefesh. 

These soldiers, who serve in the IDF without the support of any immediate family in Israel, often find that it is extremely difficult to find time to manage their personal affairs during their short and sparse breaks from the military – tasks like visiting government offices, applying for scholarships, converting their drivers’ licenses, managing their bank accounts, and making sure they receive all the benefits they deserve as new immigrants and Lone Soldiers.  READ MORE

STRIDES Athletes Shine in Eilat Ironman

On Friday, January 31, six amputee IDF veterans completed the Ironman Triathlon in Eilat. All six are part of the FIDF Strides Program, which provides advanced athletic prosthetics to disabled IDF veterans. These athletes decided to compete together in the “Eilat Israman,” and successfully completed a course that includes 1.2 miles of swimming, 56.5 miles of cycling, and a 13.1 mile run. In doing so, they proved that no obstacle is too large for them to overcome, and that their disabilities might be severe, but they don’t have to take away from their lives. Their individual stories are as inspiring as their collective accomplishment, and we are incredibly proud of their immense achievement.  READ MORE

$24 Million Raised for Israel’s Soldiers at FIDF’s National Gala
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) annual National Gala in New York tonight raised over $24 million, as more than 1,200 prominent business and philanthropic leaders from across the country gathered at New York’s historic Waldorf Astoria to demonstrate their love and support for Israel’s soldiers and FIDF.
IMPACT! Meets the President

Thanks to cooperation between FIDF’s IMPACT! Program and the security department at the president’s house, the staff of FIDF’s IMPACT! Program, led by IMPACT! Executive Director, Orna Pesach, had the honor to visit Israel’s President, Reven “Ruby” Rivlin at his home last week. During the brief meeting, Orna gave the President his very own FIDF IMPACT! shirt. Further, they discussed a young man they have in common—Max, a Lone Soldier from Russia who served in the Golani Brigade, and received a degree in Industrial Engineering and Management thanks to IMPACT!. During university, Max worked as a security guard at the president’s house, and is presently the Director of Purchasing and Logistics there. 

The meeting was a true honor, and rather exciting as well!

General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, paid tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks

This past Friday, IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, paid tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, laying a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial. Joined by FIDF National Executive Director, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, among others, Gantz’s visit was a moving reminder of universal grief wrought on that day, as well as the enduring solidarity between Israel and the United States.

WATCH: IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, thanks FIDF supporters

At the FIDF Annual Event in Israel on November 19, 2014, delegates on the FIDF Leadership Mission to Israel had the opportunity to hear directly from IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, who thanked them for their continuous support:

“I really want to say, once again, thank you, and how much me and all the commanders and soldiers of the IDF really appreciate your efforts. You could have done other things. You could have found other paths for giving things, but nevertheless you decided to be with us - here today, but as important - always, and I’m sure that you’ll always be here as well. You’re not just giving money. You’re not just friends. You’re not just ambassadors. You are more than that. You are simply partners and everything that you give is always yours, so thank you very much.”

160 FIDF leaders from across the U.S. visit Israel to meet IDF soldiers and commanders
Nearly 160 leaders and supporters of FIDF from all walks of life, representing various communities across the U.S., joined the FIDF National Leadership Mission to Israel this week to show their appreciation for the brave men and women of the IDF

VIP events included meetings with Israel’s newly elected President, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, and the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, as well as a briefing by Israel’s senior official on Arab Affairs, Avi Melamed.

“FIDF are the real friends of Israel and of the Jewish people,” said President Rivlin. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the people of Israel. Thank you for taking care of our soldiers, our sons and daughters, and those who come alone to defend us.” The sold-out FIDF Mission, which took place November 14-21, brought members of FIDF’s 15 U.S. chapters together with the soldiers of the IDF. Mission participants received in-depth briefings by senior military officers, met with state leaders, and toured strategic IDF bases to get a behind-the-scenes look into the Israeli military.

Joining the FIDF Leadership Mission were National Chairman, Nily Falic; National Executive Director, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; Chief Executive Officer, Alan E. Scholnick; and National Director and CEO Emeritus, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon.

“This National Leadership Mission allowed our FIDF supporters to forge even deeper bonds with the brave men and women of the IDF, who put their lives on the line every day to defend the Jewish State and the Jewish people,” said Falic. “We are grateful for this incredible opportunity to have visited the beloved country of Israel and learn more about how we can support the wellbeing needs of its soldiers. While they look after Israel, it is incumbent upon us to look after them.” The group of FIDF leaders heard first-hand from soldiers about serving on the front lines, toured a pivotal Iron Dome Battery in the South of Israel that helped defend its people from thousands of rocket attacks, visited the Gaza Division headquarters to get briefed on the current security situation by the division’s commander, joined a unique gathering with soldiers who served in Operation Protective Edge this summer, visited the Hatzerim Air Force Base in the Negev Desert to meet F-15 and F-16 pilots, and learned about the activities of elite units such as the Givati Brigade and the “Iron Trails” Armored Brigade.

An emotional evening for FIDF Leadership Mission delegates at the Annual Event in Israel

The FIDF Annual Event in Israel was held on November 19th in Tel Aviv and was attended by 160 leaders and supporters of the IDF soldiers, currently participating in the FIDF Leadership Mission to Israel. These delegates were joined by IDF soldiers, commanders, top Israeli officials, partner organizations, and hundreds of students who received an IMPACT! Scholarship from FIDF.

Among the honored guests in attendance was IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, who addressed the audience and commented on the terrorist attack the day prior in Jerusalem: “IDF commanders and soldiers, other security organizations, and the Israeli Police are all coping every day with many events of different natures. These cruel and inhumane events provided a reminder that the situation can change from moment to moment and that we have to continue being vigilant, remaining in a state of constant readiness, to do whatever it takes to protect the security of our people. The State of Israel knows that even after 66 years of independence, the IDF still needs to continue defending Israel and the Diaspora.”

The climax of the evening was a particularly moving family reunion. For over two years, Yuri and Sasha, twin brothers who made Aliyah from Ukraine, hadn’t seen their parents. When they moved to Israel, both were drafted into combat units and recently participated in Operation Protective Edge, in which Yuri was wounded. As part of FIDF’s Lone Soldiers Program, FIDF funded flights for all Lone Soldiers who participated in the Operation to visit their families. However, Yuri and Sasha’s visit to Ukraine was prohibited due to their parents’ residence in a sensitive combat zone in Donetsk. Nonetheless, FIDF was determined to reunite Yuri and Sasha’s family and concluded that if the soldiers couldn’t visit their parents, the parents would visit the children! In a complicated operation, FIDF succeeded in flying Sasha and Yuri’s parents to Israel without the boys’ knowledge. Finally, after two and a half years, the dramatic reunion between these brave soldiers and their parents took place on the stage in front of a huge crowd.

FIDF Western Region Gala Raises Over $33 Million To Support IDF Soldiers

Over $33 million was raised at the annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala on Thursday, November 6, 2014, breaking all records at the event where more than 1,200 supporters from the United States and Israel gathered to support the brave men and women of the IDF. Those in attendance included respected leaders and widely-known figures from the Hollywood, business, tech, sports and political communities. FIDF National Board Member and major supporter, Haim Saban, and his wife, Cheryl, served as chairs of the star-studded Gala that took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA

FIDF Receives the Highest 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

FIDF Receives the Highest 4-Star Rating for the 5th Consecutive Year

On April 1st, Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities, awarded Friends of the IDF the highest 4-star rating for the fifth consecutive year.
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