FIDF Virginia Chapter meets, celebrates, and hears from Israeli military leaders

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Other News

American athletes have won a total of 2,673 medals in the history of the Olympics, so the chances of meeting an American medal winner is low, but not impossible. Given that Israeli athletes have won only 13 medals, what are the chances of meeting an Israeli medal winner, much less meeting one in the United States? It turns out the answer is 100%. At least it was for a group of local supporters of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). FIDF is the sole organization authorized to collect charitable donations on behalf of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces across the United States of America.

The athlete they met was Avishag Semberg, the youngest Israeli Olympic medalist, and the first Israeli to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Semberg was the featured speaker at the FIDF Virginia Chapter Celebration on Sunday evening, October 3 at the Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club. While FIDF intentionally kept the group of attendees small to accommodate COVID protocols, it did not hold back on flying in a prominent group of IDF service members for the crowd.

“It was unbelievable,” says Joel Nied, the President of the Virginia chapter of FIDF. “We have a strong group of FIDF supporters in this area. FIDF did not disappoint us with the dazzling group of guests. When I first heard who was coming, I thought it was a mistake—how in the world was Virginia Beach Avishag’s first stop in her U.S. tour? I know FIDF has a huge base of support here, but wow. We were all so excited.”

Before Avishag regaled the crowd with the details of her stunning medal-winning taekwondo match, the attendees heard from another Israeli hero: Major General (Res) Nadav Padan, the national director of Friends of the IDF.

Padan is a legend in the Israeli military. He began his military service in Duvdevan, the special forces unit on which the series Fauda is based. Over a 36-year career, Major General Padan held several command positions within the IDF, including Commander of the Central Command and Founder and Head of the IDF C4i and Cyber Defense Directorates. Padan pointed out to the crowd that the IDF does not just defend Israel, but it helps shape Israeli society. As the primary institution that brings Israel’s diverse youth together, the IDF relies on the FIDF’s programs, like Project Overcome, which gives troubled youth the opportunity to serve in the IDF.

After dinner was served in the dockside party tent at the Cavalier, Padan told the crowd that the overwhelming majority of Israeli political and business leaders served in special forces units. If kids who had encounters with the law or the need to get a job to help support their families can’t serve, they won’t be able to reach the highest levels of success. FIDF programs give those kids that opportunity.

Another speaker, Major Y. (whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons) told the story of his last-minute wave-off of an Israeli strike on a Hamas missile emplacement this summer during Hamas’ horrific missile attack on Israel’s civilian population. Hamas had intentionally placed the missile launchers near a kindergarten. When Major Y. realized the proximity of the launchers to the innocent civilians, he called off the attack just in time. Despite the threat posed to the Israeli civilian population by the terrorists’ weapons, Yuval made the decision mandated to him by the IDF’s strong Code of Ethics—Ruach Tzahal (literally, “Spirit of the IDF”) —to call off the strike.

Finally, Joel Nied discussed FIDF’s commitment to provide IDF soldiers over $3,000,000 worth of vouchers—holiday travel vouchers for “Lone Soldiers” (people from around the world who enlisted in the IDF), food vouchers for combat and combat support soldiers facing food insecurity, and pre-enlistment vouchers for low-income recruits who lack the means to purchase hygiene products and other necessities for basic training.

“Thanks to the success of Sunday night’s events,” Nied says, “we are well on our way to providing this essential support.”

Nied, however, says he needed to clear the air about a rumor circulating at the event: that he had challenged Israel’s 108-pound taekwondo champion to an exhibition match. “That is categorically false,” Nied says. “I had heard, however, that Avishag was planning to challenge me to a match. After all, I did wrestle in high school.” Nied says he skirted the issue by avoiding eye contact with Avishag during the celebration. He did, nonetheless, inadvertently lock eyes with her for a moment. “It was,” Nied says, “very intimidating.”

Interested in getting involved with the FIDF through one of its many programs? Contact Jasmine Amitay, Associate Director, FIDF Virginia Chapter, at or Joel Nied, FIDF Virginia Chapter President, at

-Jasmine Amitay