This past July, we proudly announced the opening of the new Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) North Texas Chapter operating out of Dallas-Ft. Worth. With the burgeoning support of our South Texas Chapter in Houston, and the growing number of FIDF supporters across Texas, we have decided the time is ripe to introduce the incredible work of FIDF to the members of our community and encourage them to support crucial programs benefitting Israel’s brave soldiers.

FIDF works tirelessly to care for the IDF soldiers in an effort to ease the burden placed on their young shoulders and provide some respite and relief. While the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) protects Jews in Israel and around the world, FIDF supports all IDF soldiers during, and after, their military service, through our mission: “To offer cultural, recreational, and social services programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide.”

The new chapter in Dallas-Ft. Worth will help expand FIDF’s reach across Texas and allow more Lone Star communities to contribute to well-being and educational programs for Israeli soldiers.

The FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission in front of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) airplane on which the delegation flew from Poland to Israel, May 2019. (Photo credit: Shahar Azran)

One of FIDF’s flagship programs is supporting Lone Soldiers – those who choose to join the IDF and serve despite having no immediate family in Israel. In 2018, FIDF provided guidance and support to over 3,500 Lone Soldiers from 70 countries, including about 810 from the United States – with 24 Lone Soldiers originally from Texas. Some 55% of Lone Soldiers serve in combat or combat-support roles. Ensuring no soldier ever feels alone, FIDF’s support for Lone Soldiers includes housing, mentoring, a 24-hour call center, financial grants, flights to visit their families abroad, Shabbat meals, holiday gift packages, social gatherings, Fun Days, and much more.

Another leading program is the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program, which grants full, four-year academic scholarships to IDF combat veterans of modest means.

Participants of the FIDF LEGACY Program for children from bereaved families visit the White House in Washington D.C., July 2019. (Photo courtesy of FIDF)

For the 2018-2019 academic year, FIDF granted 4,580 IMPACT! scholarships to IDF combat veterans who could not afford the cost of higher education, sponsoring students at over 80 institutions throughout Israel. Through this program, FIDF helps to guarantee that Israel’s soldiers continue to grow as educated citizens and leaders. Each IMPACT! student volunteers in the community for a total of 130 hours each year of their studies, ensuring these veterans pay it forward by helping at 20 different nonprofit organizations.

Since the inception of the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship Program in 2002, IMPACT! students have volunteered over 5.5 million hours of community service, making it the top scholarship program in providing community service in Israel. About 8,900 IMPACT! graduates have entered the Israeli workforce to date.

FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship recipients gather in Israel, October 2018. (Photo courtesy of FIDF).

The FIDF LEGACY program is another way FIDF offers support to the families of IDF heroes – by helping 5,790 widows, orphans, siblings, and other family members of fallen IDF soldiers through a variety of life-cycle celebrations, including trips to the U.S. for Bar/Bat Mitzvah children, R&R weeks in Israel, recreational activities, financial support, and special family days.

An Israeli soldier receiving “Rosh Hashana Holiday Gift Cards” in 2019. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson).

Investing in construction projects, FIDF builds, refurbishes, and maintains facilities for the well-being of IDF soldiers – including sports centers, culture halls, synagogues, memorial rooms, swimming pools, and soldiers’ homes throughout Israel. FIDF’s newest series of projects includes 7 facilities serving the IDF’s elite units, at a total cost of $14.5 million. FIDF continues to build the wellbeing and education centers at the IDF Training Campus in the Negev, where FIDF funded the construction of 12 facilities at a total cost of $43 million.

In addition, in 2018, FIDF helped 910 soldiers wounded in battle to rebuild their lives through financial aid, mentoring, recreational activities, employment assistance, and athletic prostheses for amputees injured during military service through the FIDF Strides Program; granted financial aid, basic appliances and furniture, food vouchers, special grants, and holiday gift vouchers to over 8,000 soldiers in-need; funded 39 weeks of crucial rest and recuperation to combat soldiers; and FIDF supporters formed unbreakable bonds with the soldiers of 10 brigades and 70 battalions, squadrons, and flotillas.

IDF soldiers. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson).

I encourage you to be a part of this incredible cause as we celebrate the launch of our FIDF North Texas Chapter on Sunday, December 8, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Vouv, 4445 Sigma Road, Dallas.

Mort Meyerson is our Honorary Chair, and we have a wonderful program featuring active-duty Israeli soldiers. Our keynote speaker will be MK Avi Dichter, a member of the Knesset who is the former Minister of Public Security, Minister of Home Front Defense, and Director of the Shin Bet – the Israel Security Agency, and also served as Chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

To register for the December 8 Launch Celebration, go to fidf.org/north-texas-launch.

If you’d like to donate, and/or learn more about our FIDF programs, please visit www.fidf.org.

To learn more about how you can connect to the FIDF North Texas Chapter, please email kathi.sebastian@fidf.org or call (469) 909-3710.