It could well be a happy new year for Israel’s military, as their friends on the West Coast just raised a bundle for Israeli soldiers through the organization Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). At a Western Region summer party hosted by real estate entrepreneur Daniel Mani and his wife, Tsipi, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) came one step closer to realizing a longtime dream of constructing “a city of training bases” in the Negev. In February, the FIDF promised $45 million for the project, which is expected to serve 11,000 IDF soldiers and includes plans for multiple training bases, roads, hotels, a mall, a country club and movie theaters. One FIDF donor, who asked that her name not be used, pledged $3.5 million for a swimming pool facility for the Negev Education and Wellbeing Centers, one of 11 facilities the FIDF will help build.
Media mogul Haim Saban and wife Cheryl matched the anonymous donor’s $3.5 million gift and promised an additional $100,000 to fund a Sports Court and Visitors Park for the Negev project, which, in 2006, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz estimated would cost the country more than $2 billion. The move is part of the country’s overall mission to move military bases out of central Israel and to promote the development of the Negev, the lifelong dream of former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.