(JTA) — The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces raised $53.8 million at a Beverly Hills gala — a record, according to organizers — to help Israeli soldiers in need.
Some 1,200 people were in attendance at the annual event on Thursday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, raising funds for services such as academic scholarships to combat veterans; financial assistance; support for Lone Soldiers throughout their service; aid for wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers; weeks of rest and recuperation for army units; as well as educational, cultural and recreational facilities.
Billionaire Haim Saban, a national board member of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and a major supporter, and his wife, Cheryl, chaired the event.
Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle and its executive chairman gave $16.6 million — the largest single gift in FIDF history. His donation will support the construction of well-being facilities on a new training campus for coed infantry units.
“For 2,000 years, we were a stateless people, but now, we have a country we can call our own,” Ellison said. “Through all of the perilous times since Israel’s founding, we have called on the brave men and women of the IDF to defend our home. In my mind, there is no greater honor than supporting some of the bravest people in the world, and I thank FIDF for allowing us to celebrate and support these soldiers year after year. We should do all we can to show these heroic soldiers that they are not alone.”
Israeli actress and model Moran Atias emceed the event, which featured special performances by Seal, The Tenors, David Foster & Friends and Gene Simmons of KISS fame. Celebrity guests included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Katharine McPhee, Paul Reubens and Melissa Rivers, as well as Miss Israel 2013, Yityish Titi Aynaw.