IDF Brings Olmert, Ashkenazi and Dr Ruth Together

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a message, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi appeared by video link and "sexpert" Dr Ruth Westheimer posed for pictures. That's how you raise $15 million for the IDF in one night.

American Jewry turned out in force for the Friends of the IDF annual gala dinner last week at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Ashkenazi was supposed to headline - but as he had rushed back to Israel at the last minute due to apparent developments in the Gilad Shalit swap, guests enjoyed his address via video link.

Olmert also spoke via satellite at the event, telling the 1,200 leaders from the worlds of business and philanthropy across the country who had gathered how much the State of Israel appreciated their donations.

While attendees had to suffice with onscreen appearances from Israel's political and military leaders, there was no shortage of interesting individuals there in person. Dr Westheimer was the noted guest, rubbing shoulders with Israel's new UN ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, among others.

The evening also featured IDF soldiers who have been wounded in the line of duty, and paid tribute to those who chose to serve in combat units, despite having lost a loved one in battle.

The most impressive donations came in the form of a $2.5 million gift from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, earmarked specifically for soldiers in need; an anonymous contribution of $1 million from the New Jersey area to build a residence for lone soldiers (soldiers from abroad who volunteer for the IDF); and an additional $1 million from the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York to build an infirmary near Jerusalem for wounded soldiers.