Following a similar event organized last year in New York, the Western Region of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces honored local families of fallen Israeli soldiers at a formal dinner held at the Olympic Collection on Oct. 29. The event was meant to extend recognition and support that bereaved families might often miss living outside of Israel.
The event was hosted by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), attended by the Israel Ministry of Defense and supported by The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the Israeli Leadership Council. Rabbi Isaac Jeret, chairman of the FIDF National Rabbinic Cabinet and rabbi of Congregation Ner Tamid, served as master of ceremonies and Los Angeles Consul General Jacob Dayan offered opening remarks.
“There is no more moral army in the world than the IDF,” Dayan said. “We did everything we could in Gaza to avoid casualties. I don’t know how many bereaved families we added to the list to be moral.”
About 100 people, the majority Israeli ex-pats, attended the event.
“We will never forget your loved ones, your struggle to cope with your pain, and your loss,” said Colonel Yair Ben-Shalom, head of Casualties and Town Majors Department of the IDF, who came from Israel to extend his support to the families. His department is responsible for first notifying families of their loss and maintaining ties between the army and the bereaved.
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Photos by Arik Dror
“I’d like to pray with you that my work will become unnecessary,” he said.
Ben-Shalom was joined by Aryeh Muallem, deputy director general at the Ministry of Defense and head of the Bereaved Families and Commemoration Department, which deals with the financial, material and psychological support to which the bereaved are entitled. Both Muallem and Ben-Shalom conducted separate meetings with local families to open dialogue and inform them of their rights.
With entertainment provided by Israeli singer-songwriter Noa Dori and an Israeli flag lowered to half-staff, the mood in the dining hall fluctuated between festive and somber.
“Better it’s festive,” said Elan Argil, a real estate investor from Woodland Hills, who lost a brother in 1982 in the Lebanon War. “It’s not Yom HaZikaron [Memorial Day]. It’s easy for me to come to tears. On Yom HaZikaron I spend my day in tears. It was a really important event for us to know that they care. It’s a blessing.”