“STAR STUDDED TRIBUTE TO THE IDF HELD AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA” by Fern Sidman

“Israel is clearly an island of stability. An outpost of the free world values in tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy for the weak. no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. Thus, we must remain strong,” declared Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as he delivered the keynote address at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces 30th annual gala dinner held at the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel on Tuesday evening, March 22nd.

Speaking before a star studded audience of over 1500 people; replete with a plethora of prominent political and religious personalities and celebrities of all stripes, Minister Barak noted the impending September 2011 convocation of the United Nations General Assembly in which the world body will “recognize a Palestinian state along the ’67 borders, followed by a wide effort at de-legitimization of Israel” and referred to this move and others like as a “diplomatic tsunami” that is rising against the Jewish state.

“Thus, a stronger sense of purpose and urgency is needed in order for Israel to avoid ending up on a ‘slippery slope’ towards isolation and de-legitimization”, he said, and alluded to the fact that the possible creation of an independent Palestinian state might be inevitable. “We are not doing the Palestinians a favor”, he intoned, adding that, “we are doing this to preserve our national identity and for our own national security.”

Concerning the recent revolutions in Egypt and the unrest in the rest of the Arab world, Defense Minister Barak said that Israel was facing a regional “earthquake”. He praised the “advancement toward openness in the Arab societies” but cautioned of any “uncertainties and threats that such a situation brings.” Citing the continued threats from “Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, he said that Iran, (the chief sponsor of these terrorist organizations) still “presents a major threat to world order” and said that “a shift towards crippling and paralyzing sanctions” against the regime were essential, while making oblique references to a military strike by saying that “simultaneously we must keep all ‘options on the table'”.

Addressing the recent strained demeanor in the US-Israel relationship, Defense Minister Barak said, “Israel must nurture and develop its close ties with the US, which, for Israel is the major source of securing its qualitative military edge, as well as of political backing.”

The electricity in the air was palpable as dinner chairman for the last 15 years, Mr. Benny Shabtai, noted that the very special 30th anniversary of the FIDF was a “remarkable milestone” and a “testament to the incredible generosity and commitment of FIDF supporters.” In a unique moment of historic proportions, Mr. Shabtai introduced the six former IDF Chiefs of Staff, including the keynote speaker, Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. (Res.) Ehud Barak (1991-1995), Lt. Gen. (Res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (1995-1998), Lt. Gen. (Res.) Shaul Mofaz (1998-2002), Lt. Gen. (Res.) Moshe Ya’alon (2002-2005), Lt. Gen. (Res.) Dan Halutz (2005-2007), and Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi (2007-2011) who received a standing ovation while saluting the audience for 30 years of unflinching support to the brave men and women serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Monica Crowley, a Fox News contributor, Washington Times columnist, and radio talk show personality served as the ebullient master of ceremonies. She is also the wife of Fox News commentator Alan Colmes. Through a live broadcast via satellite from an air force base at Palmachim, Ms. Crowley spoke with current IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. General Benny Gantz and Lt. Noam (who did not give his last name for security purposes) at 3:00 a.m Israel time. Providing dinner guests with a behind-the-scenes look at the central command center for anti-missile defense, Lt. Noam spoke of the “tremendous dedication of the brave, young soldiers” of the IDF and a tank crew member shared his personal experience with the cutting-edge technology that saved his life, when earlier this month his tank successfully deployed a miniature missile system for the first time in history.

In a special video message to dinner attendees, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed his willingness to engage in peace talks with Syria saying that, “If they are sincere, my hand and the hand of the people of Israel will reach out for peace” but added that such negotiations are dependent on Syrian and Palestinian public recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Discussing his days as a combat soldier during the War of Attrition which followed the Six Day War of 1967, the Prime Minister recalled his involvement in a firefight across the Suez Canal in which he lost a close friend. Relating the words of his friend’s mother who was a survivor of the Nazi death camps, Mr. Netanyahu said she told him that “as long as my son fell wearing the uniform of an Israeli soldier rather than a victim of the camps, that makes all the difference.”

Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi spoke of Israel’s great democratic principles and her “respect for human dignity and human life.” He praised Israel’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti by spotlighting the hundreds of lives that were saved by Israeli army medical teams and the babies that were delivered by them. “I’m always prepared to fight to save the homeland, but I would much prefer to fight for newborn babies’ lives”, he said.

Emotions soared to a fever pitch and tears ran freely from the eyes of the assemblage as Mrs. Miriam Peretz took the stage to speak of her two beloved sons who died in the line of duty as IDF soldiers. A Moroccan immigrant, Mrs. Peretz came to Israel in 1964 and married Eliezer Peretz. They were blessed with four sons and two daughters. About 12 years ago, her firstborn son, First Lt. Uriel Peretz, of the Sayeret Golani brigade fell in the line of duty during the battle of Lebanon at the age of 22. Then, just last year, on the eve of Passover, IDF officers knocked on her door to tell her that yet another son, Major Eliraz Peretz, 32, a Deputy Commander of Golani Battalion 12, was killed while fighting terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Her next two sons were exempt from army service because of the loss of their brothers but Mrs. Peretz said,”they wouldn’t think of it” adding that “they saw it as a mitzvah to serve in the IDF”. She recalled the dedication of her sons by saying, “My sons were always first in line. They always did what needed to be done.”

A whopping $23.4 million was raised in public contributions including a $4 million donation by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Touching the hearts of the audience were Marine Sargeant Todd Bowers (who is not Jewish) and has just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He donated $1000 in honor of slain Israeli hero Liran Banai.

Pastor John Hagee, an ardent Christian Zionist and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 19,000 active members donated $25,000 and paid tribute to the “great men and women of the IDF” who put their lives on their line for their beloved nation of Israel. Speaking of the recent slaughter of the Fogel family in Itamar on March 11th, Pastor Hagee said in a private interview with The Jewish Voice, “the heinous murder of the Fogel family is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Israel and I condemn the world reaction of indifference. We must be ever vigilant in our support for Israel and remain diligent about our concerns for Israel’s security and that of its brave citizens.”

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, noted sex therapist and psychologist told The Jewish Voice, “I come to this dinner every year and I so enjoy this absolutely wonderful outpouring of support for the IDF.” Being a part of the FIDF dinner takes on special significance for Dr. Westheimer as she was born in Germany in 1928 as the only child of Orthodox Jewish parents, She emigrated to Israel at the age of 17, after learning that her parents were murdered in the Holocaust and joined the Haganah in Jerusalem during the British mandatory era. Despite her diminutive size she was trained as a scout and sniper and was seriously wounded in action by an exploding shell during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. It was several months before she was able to walk again.

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Fern Sidman holds a B.A, in political science from Brooklyn College. She was the educational coordinator for the Betar Youth Movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was national director of the Jewish Defense League from 1983-1985. She was a researcher for several books written by Rabbi Meir Kahane, ZTK”L. She was the managing editor of the publication entitled, The Voice of Judea, and is a regular contributor to its web site. She is currently a writer and journalist living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in The Jewish Press, The Jewish Advocate, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and numerous Jewish and general web sites including, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Pipes and Michael Freund.
We are delighted to have Ms. Sidman as a regular contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

2 Responses to ““STAR STUDDED TRIBUTE TO THE IDF HELD AT THE WALDORF ASTORIA” by Fern Sidman”

  1. matt says:

    Thanks for the blog and taking the time to post.

  2. Kathy says:

    Kinda a long read but worth it, Thanks

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