|6 Dec 2019|
Wednesday 12 June 2019 Over 500 guests attended Beit Halochem UK’s annual dinner at The Royal Lancaster Hotel, the largest number of people to attend the annual event to date. The evening raised a record £1.25 million.
The dinner comes just two weeks after the inaugural Veteran Games and Conference which took place at Beit Halochem’s centres in Israel. The concept was conceived by Beit Halochem UK Chairman, Andrew Wolfson, over a year ago and culminated in uniting 100 British and Israeli wounded veterans for a life-changing week of sporting competition, family time and sightseeing.
Natalie and David Tahan, joint Dinner Chairs, welcomed the guests.
Natalie said: “Since the birth of our organisation, there is a very proud story to be told of communal responsibility and self-reliance. A story of hope, strength and achievement.” She continued: “Through your generosity, Beit Halochem will continue to shine.”
Guest of honour, Yotam Cohen, Beit Halochem member and former Israeli Naval commando, addressed the guests. In 2010, Yotam’s specialist platoon received intelligence about a Turkish ship named the Mavi Marmara that planned to sail from Turkey into Gaza.
As soon as he entered the deck, Yotam was brutally attacked, thrown from the upper to lower deck and held hostage.
He said: “They broke my skull, and my back and I almost lost the use of my left eye.”
Yotam received a full year of rehabilitation at Beit Halochem to repair his broken body.
He continued: “During this long year, I had one goal: to return to my unit, to my squad, my friends and to protect the State of Israel. Thanks to Beit Halochem, I realised that goal. I was welcomed by people who really understood what was best for me. They became my friends, my brothers, my family.”
Guest of honour, Major Shlomi Biche, Beit Halochem member and former member of the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade, made aliyah from Ethiopia at the age of six with his two brothers.
He said: “I wanted to give back to the country that had given me twelve wonderful years of education, nurture and love.”
Shlomi had completed eleven years of service with the IDF when the second Lebanon War broke out. During this war, Shlomi was severely wounded in a fierce battle with Hezbollah militants. Six of his soldiers were severely wounded. Whilst recovering in hospital, Shlomi learnt that one of his men, a close friend and lone soldier, Yo’an Zarbib, was killed.
As part of his rehabilitation, Shlomi was brought to Beit Halochem.
Of Beit Halochem, he said: “I knew immediately that it was a place that I could go to without feeling judged by anyone and where I could slowly rebuild my strength amongst comrades.”
During his year of rehabilitation, Shlomi decided it was his duty to continue serving his country. He said: “I felt an instinctive need to continue to give back to the country that did so much for me.” He returned to the IDF as a base commander.
Warrant Officer Matt Tomlinson, former Regimental Sergeant Major at the Royal Marines and recipient of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his actions in Iraq, spoke about his participation in the inaugural Veteran Games and Conference.
Matt, one of the most highly decorated Royal Marines of the present day, said of the Games and his time with Israeli wounded veterans:
“It has been humbling, inspirational and at times emotional. We share common ground; we empathise with each other. We are strangers that met, yet we already know each other.”
He continued: “I will always remember the determination, grit and drive to ensure we all experienced the Dead Sea, carrying wheelchairs together down to the shore and then back up again, Israeli and British folk helping each other. We shared sweat, pain and more pain together. Neither side giving up, always cheering each other on.”
Spencer Gelding, Chief Executive of Beit Halochem UK, said:
“We are so grateful to all of our supporters who have helped us to raise much needed funds for Beit Halochem. A large proportion will go towards the building of the final stage of the Ashdod complex. Our fundraising dinner was made especially memorable this year as it comes just two weeks after the inaugural Veteran Games which took place at the Beit Halochem centres in Israel. We were honoured to have a delegation of British veterans who participated in the Veteran Games with us for our most important fundraising event of the year. We look forward to growing this relationship over the coming months.”