Heroes in Town
Friends of Israeli Firefighters (FIF) recently hosted a weekend community outreach to raise awareness for the battle against terrorism in both Israel and America. Various community-based functions were held throughout the weekend, including a forum on terrorism at the Clarity Theatre on Sept. 11 where members of the Israeli delegation answered questions and provided information about the mutual cooperation that exists between Israel and the United States in their battles to combat terrorism.
FIF was created to provide assistance to Israel's first responders who are unable to afford new fire engines and equipment throughout the country due to budget cuts and financial deficits in individual municipalities. According to Mark Egerman, FIF West Coast chairman and former mayor of Beverly Hills, the organization's goal is to increase public awareness about terrorism. In addition, forests and property in Israel are being lost to fires, and firefighters are in desperate need of trucks and equipment to provide help and assistance. FIF's goal is to raise funding for 70 firetrucks for Israel by the end of 2006.
For more information, call (310) 777-3177.
The Best of Life
Los Angeles Family, the local chapter of Larger Than Life, the Israeli children's cancer charity, held its second annual West Coast Dream Flight Aug. 24-Sept. 7.
A group of 21 Israeli children and teens with cancer, ranging in age from 9 to 19, traveled here from Israel for two weeks of fun and excitement. The kids enjoyed trips to Universal Studios, Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Venice beach and a helicopter flight over Los Angeles, while they stayed at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. In Las Vegas, they were treated to a showing of the Blue Man Group and various Vegas attractions. San Diego was their last stop, where they visited Sea World, before coming back to Los Angeles for a joyous and dance-filled farewell party at the home of a supporter.
"The trip is a lot of fun, it helps you to disconnect from the doctors and hospital," said Nir Fraiberg, 17. "It gives me strength."
"After a long time of treatments, it cheered up my life," said Stav Ribenfeld, 17.
On Aug. 27, the organization's second annual gala dinner was held at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. Actor Joshua Jackson was there to show his support, as were "Sister, Sister" stars Tia and Tamara Mowry. The issue of cancer is very personal for the sisters, who lost an uncle to brain cancer.
"We will do anything to encourage children and make them smile, give them a sense of hope and joy in the midst of pain," Tia Mowry said.
To the delight of the children, Israeli superstar actresses Noa Tishby and Michal Yanai were present as well. "I'm here to give back," Tishby explained. "Through these kids you learn the true value of power, optimism, and true strength."
Also in attendance that night was Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles Ehud Danoch. The master of ceremonies was Israeli actor Dan Turgeman, who accompanied the children throughout the trip.
The children were treated like stars themselves, posing for photographs and enjoying the grand event put on for them. Lights flashed constantly while two huge inflatable spheres and a large projector showcased images showing the children during their activities with the organization. The images also displayed how the money raised also funds research labs for cancer treatments and pre-treatment and recuperation rooms in Israel's oncology wards equipped with computers, games and music players. The 500 people in attendance raised more than $500,000 that night with the help of a live auction and a car raffle.
Israeli singers Noa Dori and Racheli, gave sensational performances. Yael Greenberg, whose daughter Shani -- a participant on last year's trip -- died just a few months ago, said,"Thanks to Larger Than Life, Shani was smiling and in good spirits when she returned. Larger Than Life provided the comfort, love and support so desperately needed," she said. "Love and support are what makes the difference in how you cope."
Eyal Turtz, 9, told the audience how "Larger Than Life gives me and all of the children hope, one of the most important feelings."
The goal of the nonprofit organization is to improve the quality of life of Israeli children with cancer, regardless of religion, race, or ethnicity, by providing them with activities that allow them to forget for a moment life in an oncology ward. In addition to the two-week trip to the West Coast, the organization takes different groups of cancer stricken Israeli children and teens to trips to such places as Orlando and Europe, a family vacation in Eilat, as well as a summer camp in northern Israel, among others.
For more information about Larger Than Life, contact Iris Goldstein-Hagay at (818) 224-4600 or visit www.gdolim.co.il. -- Roxana Pourshalimi, Contributing Writer