Special programs for Lone Soldiers one focus for FIDF
By Samuel Weber
At a meeting Aug. 8, at the home of Amy and Harlan Korenvaes, the newly formed North Texas Friends of the IDF (FIDF) chapter demonstrated how its services impact the Lone Soldiers and native soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. FIDF CEO Major General (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, joined some 60 FIDF supporters.
Also in attendance were Board Chair Yoram Avneri, Lone Soldiers Fay Goldstein and Rina Yaholam, and FIDF directors from North Texas, South Texas and the mid-Atlantic region.
More than $100,000 was raised during the event to support Lone Soldiers and native IDF soldiers.
The FIDF Lone Soldiers program is designed to support individuals who have chosen to work toward Israeli citizenship through service in the Israeli army. The process involves moving to Israel and attending programs to learn Hebrew. Additionally, Lone Soldiers are provided places to live, while they serve in the army. The program also provides the IDF with additional funding for 40 different programs, as a way of improving the soldiers’ quality of life, especially during Shabbat, when they have nowhere to go.In 2018, FIDF raised $140,000,000 for its programs, among them the Lone Soldiers program, which helps IDF soldiers visit their families, attend college and move on with their lives after their service to Israel.
North Texas has nine active Lone Soldiers. FIDF North Texas Director Kathi Ravkind Sebastian shared her ideas on the future of the North Texas chapter.
“I look forward to carrying out the vital work of looking out for the brave young soldiers who preserve and protect the freedoms of the Jewish people in Israel and around the world,” said Sebastian, before the meeting.
Avneri said that, meeting Klifi-Amir for the first time while both were attending a convention in Panama, he felt an instant connection with the Major General. The two discussed the lack of an FIDF chapter in North Texas; the original Texas chapter was based in Houston. That conversation led to the launch of the Dallas chapter, in hopes of spreading care to Lone Soldiers from yet another location.
“FIDF is the only body authorized by the IDF and Israel to collect and donate money to the IDF and Lone Soldiers,” said Avneri.
Miami-based Lone Soldier Fay G.(The IDF does not permit the use of last names in news stories) recounted her first experience with FIDF during her sophomore year of college. “As a leader in my pro-Israel campus community, I was invited as a guest to attend one of these meetings,” Goldstein said. The speaker, an IDF soldier, had held her attention. “I had no idea that, years later, I’d be standing in the same position, in the same uniform that she wore,” Goldstein recalled. Wearing the FIDF backpack that she was given, along with her uniform, Goldstein made aliyah at nearly 28 years old.
Fay G. currently is the head of social media communications of the IDF, managing the organization’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks. She said she is living her dream.
“I often think about that night in college,” Fay G. said, “I think about how different my life is now, than it was then, and to remind myself how it was all worth it. I think about how worth it it all is, because now instead of a dress at an FIDF gala, I wear the same uniform as that soldier.”
Joined by Lone Soldier Dallasite Rina Y., Fay G. referenced the code of ethics that every IDF soldier is required to carry with them at all times. Yahalom discussed how she had personally been helped by FIDF in the form of a new gym being built where she was stationed, which was funded as one of the projects undertaken by FIDF.
Klifi-Amir’s address displayed pride in both the IDF and FIDF, citing his 33 years of experience serving with the former. He also shared the differences between the parents of children in the IDF, as opposed to parents of Lone Soldiers.
“If I need to, I can drive or fly not too far to see my children,” said Klifi-Amir. “To me, the real heroes are their (Lone Soldier) parents.” Lone Soldier parents have to trust in their children to be successful and responsible in their service. “We want to make sure they feel that they are not alone,” Klifi-Amir said.
David Wallace, board member of the mid-Atlantic FIDF, as well as an ex-officer in the U.S. Air Force and the State Department, was the evening’s final speaker. “When I was back (in Washington), for the second time, the Washington Jewish Week talked about the FIDF gala . . . I bought my ticket, went to the synagogue,” he said. Wallace indicated that the gala spurred him on to his love of FIDF.
“I was always taught to support what you’re involved in making happen” Wallace said. “There’s only one Israel, and we have to support it, and I urge you to take that first step. Get involved, make that first commitment.”