12:38 GMT25 January 2021
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    Some of Hollywood's most famous stars have managed to raise $31 mln in donations for Israel's “lone soldiers”: those who have left their home countries to serve in Israel’s military; the fundraising event preceded a 'celebrity visit' to the US from Prime Minister Netanyahu, who hopes to secure a military aid package worth a total of $50 bln.

    More than 1,200 guests showed up at the annual Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces charity event, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on November 5 and raised a total of $31 million in just one night.

    In this Friday, March 22, 2013 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, left, listens to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their visit to the Children's Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem
    © AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File
    The star-studded gathering focused specifically on “lone soldiers,” those who have left their home countries to serve in Israel’s military, while their families continue to reside outside Israel.

    According to the website of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, an average of 2,800 such soldiers are serving in the army at any given time. Approximately 950 new lone soldiers join the IDF every year.

    Attendees included Hollywood actors Jason Alexander, Antonio Banderas, Liev Schreiber, Jason Segel and Mark Wahlberg. Gene Simmons, the frontman of 1980‘s rock band KISS also attended. Simmons’ real name is Chaim Witz, and he was born in Israel before moving to the United States at age 8, according to the US media.

    For the ninth straight year, Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, served as chairs of the gala.

    Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a nonprofit organization; its mission was to provide and support educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the men and women of the Israeli armed forces, according to a statement on its website.

    Thursday’s fundraiser came ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the US to secure a decade-long aid package worth a total of $50 billion.

    Under the current deal, which is set to expire in 2017, Israel currently receives over $3 billion worth of military aid from the US per year.

    According to the Congressional Research Service's report "US Foreign Aid to Israel," written by Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, in 2015 the US government also gave $619.8 million for "joint" US-Israel missile defense programs (designed to protect Israeli territory from potential outside threats), bringing total military aid to Israel to $3.7 billion per year.

    "Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $124.3 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance," reads the summary of the report.

    American Friends of Palestine

    Many of the country’s nonprofit organizations have pledged their support for Palestine. Among them, the American Friends of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) aims to educate  the general American public through fundraising, advocacy, and outreach about the situation of Palestinian refugees and generate support for UNRWA's work in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

    Amongst other organizations which support Palestine are Jewish Voice for Peace, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Americans for A Palestinian State, 14 Friends of Palestine.

    Pro-Palestinian American celebrities include, Whoopi Goldberg, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco or Lupe Fiasco, the American hip-hop star, NBA player Amare Stoudemire, Kim Kardashian, Hollywood actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman, American political satirist, television host, and stand-up comedian Jon Stewart and singer Rihanna.

    Related:

    Israel Seeks More US Military Aid
    Israel to Urge US Congressmen to Terminate $400 Mln Aid to Palestinians
    US at Crossroads: Cut Military Aid to Israel or Continue Subsidizing War in Gaza
    Tags:
    lone soldiers, military aid, charity, fundraising, aid, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Benjamin Netanyahu, Hollywood, Israel, US, Los Angeles
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