On March 2, at The Select in Sandy Springs FIDF Southeast Chairperson Karen Shulman greeted an audience of 70 that had turned out for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces women’s luncheon.
“We’re excited to have such a room full of women,” she began, then introduced the board and its newest member, Candice Keilin.
The FIDF provides for the wellbeing of IDF soldiers, including financial relief, education, scholarships, support of wounded and fallen families and lone soldiers.
A video led with the statistic that 33 percent of the IDF is female, as is 51 percent of its officer corps. One female soldier gave her own life protecting a fellow soldier on their first day guarding the Damascus Gate. Another neutralized a terrorist who had just murdered four Israeli citizens and was preparing to reverse his truck to kill even more.
The first speaker, Captain G, who could not be photographed for security reasons, serves as a medical doctor and an integral part of her fighting force, came from an “idealistic” family with five girls. She described the challenges along the way of being in a “merit” position versus gender specific. “I treat everything from athlete’s foot to cancer,” she said. “I’m part of a fighting force which encompasses all those operations — run, carry, shoot in addition to the medical part, like inserting an IV in the dark.” She reminded the group that her orders are to also treat terrorists after they have been neutralized. Her final charge, “No short cuts, stay focused.”
Headline speaker Maytal Itkis was born in Dayton, Ohio, 33 years ago while her parents were studying in the U.S. Raised in Israel on a moshav, she said that, because of trauma, she has no memories before the age of 9. Calm and poised, she shared that she lost both of her brothers while they were serving in the IDF 12 years apart. “You have to learn how to swim against the tide with acceptance and control,” she said, “not be passive and surrender as a bereaved family. My parents and I pledged to not let these deaths and fear dictate our lives.” Her two-word slide read: “Choose Life.”
During her own IDF Army Service, Itkis served in the navy, with the navy Seals (Shayetet 13), then as a commander on the Navy training base.
The losses Itkis experienced compelled the audience to internalize that life is too short and must be celebrated, and to choose to do whatever feels meaningful and impactful — the essence of her late brother’s advice to her. She eventually made a big career change and became a photographer, blogger, social activist and motivational speaker, as well as a wife and mother.
Itkis concluded holding a sliver of plastic plane part that she treasures because it was found at the sight of her brother’s plane crash (into a crater). She said, “Amid thousands of scattered parts, I found this. Look at its shape — that of the country of Israel. Yes, we will keep our country whole.”
Following the formal program, Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon spoke with the AJT. “The message today is of utmost importance. I am so proud to be Israeli and was moved by these stories exemplifying resilience and determination,” she said.
Renee Evans and Marsha Spector shared stories about visiting the soldiers they supported through the IMPACT Scholarship program. Evans was proud that she partially supports the Paratrooper Brigade, one of the IDF’s most prestigious units. Spector noted that a soldier she had previously sponsored is now well employed in IT, and that she is now sponsoring another.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Karen Shulman
- Candice Keilin
- Damascus Gate
- Maytal Itkis
- Choose Life
- IDF Army Service
- navy Seals
- Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon
- Renee Evans
- Marsha Spector
- impact scholarship program
- Paratrooper Brigade
- Friends of the Israel Defense Forces
- The Select in Sandy Springs