AACI Netanya showed the movie entitled “Beneath the helmet: from high school to the home front,” that has been made in Israel about the process of young men being drafted into the IDF and how that affects them. It was an enlightening and engrossing experience. I must admit that I was expecting a standard PR type of documentary about IDF service, but believe me it wasn’t anything like that.
The movie was made under the auspices of JerusalemU (http://www.jerusalemu.org) and the film’s producer Rebecca Shore was present to introduce the film and afterwards to answer questions. She explained that until they actually started shooting they did not know who they would be focussing on, and it turned out that they found 5 soldiers in a platoon of paratroopers that became the “stars” of the movie. But, the authenticity and grittiness of the movie, that is more drama than documentary, really shines through. I urge everyone interested in Israel, and especially Jewish youth in the diaspora, to see this movie (see http://www.beneathhelmet.com). Although the dialog of the movie is in Hebrew it has English subtitles. After seeing this no-one can ever label our boys “killers” nor could they even possibly believe that Israel is an “apartheid state.”
The inductees they focussed on at first looked like poster cut-outs, but gradually you realize that they each have a story, that each one is battling his own problems. The platoon leader who is profiled, it turns out, was a difficult kid because he had learning disabilities. His mother encouraged him to take up running and he became an award-winning runner and when he joined the army his natural ability as a leader of men came out. He became the much-loved commander of his men and never asked them to do anything he couldn’t do himself.
Two of the men were new immigrants, one from Switzerland who was a “lone” soldier, i.e. had no family in Israel, and the other an Ethiopian immigrant. They became close friends through the shared experience of boot camp, even though their differences were enormous. The Ethiopian immigrant had financial problems, his father had died 12 hrs before they left Ethiopia for Israel, and his family had little income. The officer arranged a donation for him to cover his debts and helped his family find a better apartment.
The other two inductees were Israelis, one a young man and the other a young woman, who overcomes her initial misgivings about being a soldier to become a leading instructor and teacher of the inductees. We see them all struggling with their roles, working hard to survive the cut, running for hours with heavy packs, shooting and parachute jumping, and we see the boys becoming men. It was an inspiring experience to see how our boys in the IDF conduct themselves, they came across as real people and certainly not cyphers.
The dedication of these men and women to their role in defending the country was both heartening and reassuring. These men saw action in the recent war in Gaza and are now stationed on the northern front, ready to fight Hizbollah if necessary. I think we all gained by seeing the process of their transition from inductees to paratroopers and active IDF soldiers.