Israeli Pilot Who Led Operation Entebbe Hostage Rescue To Address FIDF Benefit In Southfield



The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Michigan Annual Gala will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield. More than 800 prominent community leaders and FIDF supporters from across Michigan are expected to attend the annual gala honoring Israel’s brave soldiers and supporting FIDF’s educational and well-being programs for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers. The gala will also salute local Lone Soldiers – those who immigrate to Israel with no immediate family to serve in the IDF.

Joshua Shani
Joshua Shani

The gala, one of the local community’s largest events, will feature a keynote speech by Israeli Air Force (IAF) Brig. Gen. (Res.) Joshua Shani, the lead pilot on Operation Entebbe, an Israeli rescue mission at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport in 1976 that saved 102 passengers who were taken hostage when their Air France flight en route to Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by terrorists. After a week of planning, Shani led four IAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, loaded with Israeli special operations soldiers, on a secret flight to Uganda and succeeded against all odds.

“My biggest fear wasn’t being shot at from the ground; rather it was making a mistake that would endanger this entire operation. All I could think the entire time was ‘don’t screw this up,’” said Shani. “The lives of many were in my hands that day and, miraculously, my team and I were able to come out victorious.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose brother, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu Z’’L, commanded the special operations unit on the ground in Entebbe and was the only member of the team who was killed, visited Uganda this past July to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the successful rescue, in partnership with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Also attending will be Lone Soldiers originally from the Detroit area, including IAF Cpl. Andrea; Cpl. Justin, who serves as an advance reconnaissance scout in the IDF’s Armored Corps; Sgt. (Res.) Stephanie, who trained tank gunners in the IDF’s Armored Corps; and Cpl. (Res.) Laurenne, who served as a shooting instructor in an elite IDF Artillery Corps unit. Co-Chairing the gala are FIDF Michigan Chairman Alon Kaufman and his wife, FIDF Michigan Vice President Shari Kaufman, Lisa Shiffman and her husband, Gary Shiffman, who is president of the FIDF Michigan Chapter.

“This evening is an incredible way to strengthen the bonds between the local community and the brave soldiers who benefit from FIDF programs, ” said FIDF Michigan Director of Development Paula Lebowitz. “Having Joshua Shani here to tell his remarkable and triumphant story is such an honor – and makes this a night that should not be missed.”

Other distinguished guests will include FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipient Staff Sgt. (Res.) Golan, whose scholarship is sponsored by FIDF supporters who are themselves IMPACT! graduates; FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Midwest Region Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim.

The evening will begin with a 6 p.m. strolling dinner, followed by the program at 7:30 p.m. The funds raised at this event will go toward FIDF educational and well-being programs for IDF soldiers – including FIDF’s Lone Soldiers Program, which supports soldiers with no immediate family in Israel. For more information or to support FIDF, visit



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