On December 3, Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers held an emotional fund-raising event in Paris, France. The purpose of the event was to both share in the warm relationship between France and Israel and raise much-needed funds for Israel’s soldiers.
Yahad- United for Israel’s Soldiers is the only official organization in the Holy Land which supports all of the welfare and education projects of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Working hand-in-hand with the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the IDF, Yahad is able to ensure that 100 percent of every donation received is fully transferred to the direct aid of Israel’s soldiers.
The Paris event was attended by 600 French and Israeli VIPs, including Israeli Embassador to France Aliza Bin-Noun, Yahad CEO Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, LIBI France Chairman Gladys Tibi, and Major T. from the Golani unit. Four lone French soldiers (soldiers without family in Israel) and people from the private sector also attended. The Northern Command’s musical ensemble provided the entertainment.
All attendees were moved by the presentations. “This yearly event is very important as it builds a deep relationship between France, the Israeli army and the Holy Land,” explained Michael Engelhardt, Director of the Yahad Overseas Department, to Breaking Israel News. “Everyone who attends is there because of their love of Israel and their desire to care for Israel’s soldiers.”
The evening included several emotional videos, starting with greetings and blessings from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot.
Special honor was given to the memory of fallen French IDF soldier Staff Sergeant Jordan Bensemhoun. A video commemorating the soldier was shown, and Bensemhou’s mother and commanding officer spoke. Bensemhoun, who is buried in Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon, was killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.
Bensemhoun had moved to Israel on his own at the age of 16 and joined the IDF, serving in the prestigious Golani infantry. He was killed by an anti-tank missile on the first day of the conflict. It is estimated that 6,000 Israelis attended his funeral in a show of appreciation and solidarity for this lone soldier who paid the ultimate price for his desire to protect Israel.
Bensemhoun’s mother spoke emotionally about her son and his dedication to the Land of Israel and the IDF. She made a personal appeal to the French community to encourage their children to join the Israeli army.
His commander Major T. shared his memories of the fallen soldier, breaking from his professional military demeanor to describe his warm impressions and remembrances of Bensemhoun.
In an emotional moment which had many tearing up, Yahad presented a film of 24 hours in the life of the four French lone soldiers, who had flown to France for the ceremony without their families’ knowledge. “We filmed from the time the soldiers prepared and left the Holy Land through the time when they knocked on their parents’ doors and surprised them,” continued Engelhardt.
The Gala event raised over 300,000 Euros ($313,500) for the welfare of Israel’s soldiers. Funds will go towards much-needed soldier gymnasiums, the refurbishment and building of synagogues on army bases, improving leisure areas on bases and supporting the “Uniform to University” program which provides soldiers with university scholarships following their service.
Engelhardt told Breaking Israel News that the French have a motto relating to the IDF: “Israeli soldiers are there for us. We have to be here for them.”
“This gala event is very important to Israel-French ties,” he continued. “There is a true and deep feeling of a common destiny. Yahad is grateful to the French community, which continues to generously help important IDF projects and the new ‘Uniform to University’ flagship scholarship program of Israel’s Chief of Staff.”