Beneath the Helmet

Last Thursday night, a group of us—11 mothers and fathers of soldiers or future soldiers—attended a one-timing showing of a movie called Beneath the Helmet at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque along with about 300 people. None of us had any idea what to expect.

The crowd was surprisingly mixed: older and retired, middle age and parental looking, young and unencumbered, religious, secular, students, soldiers, even children. By the time the film began, every seat was filled. First someone welcomed us from the Jerusalem U. production company, a nonprofit whose tagline reads: Inspiring U about Israel & Judaism—Innovative film education for everyone. Then the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, an Ethiopian woman, spoke, followed by one of the film crew.

A Jerusalem U. representative introducing the film

A documentary, the movie follows seven boys and one girl as they finish high school and leave home to enter the IDF, the typical teen trajectory in Israel. During their interviews, some speak in Hebrew and some in English, but the entire film has English subtitles. Each character exudes energy and passion and commitment.

The story primarily focuses on the boys during their 205-day training to enter an elite paratrooper unit. On certain days or events during the course, the camera zooms in on them as they reveal their backgrounds, their connection to Israel, their greatest challenges, their dreams and goals. The camera also follows many of them into their homes, where their families—parents, siblings, grandparents, even friends—share their views of and concerns for the teens.

Coral, the only female, became a sergeant of a unit of Lone Soldiers. “I am their mother and their father,” she says when referring to her relationship with her charges, immigrants from all over the world. She explains how growing up, she never felt connected to the country; she didn’t understand why she had to serve in the IDF. But once in her new role, responsible for the health and safety of these foreigners, she changed; she was in awe of her peers who chose to leave their home countries to serve her native land.

Whether I attend an event and stand up to sing the Hatikva or sit among thousands of Raananites for the annual evening ceremony to usher in Memorial Day, I cry. This tiny country, roughly the size of Vancouver Island or Taiwan, tugs at my heart strings often and sometimes when I least expect it. Last week, while watching a movie about eight courageous soldiers, I wept. Not only because it was so emotionally moving, but also because in the last few seconds, we learned that these boys and girls understood why they did what they did this past summer, during Operation Protective Edge, when the theoretical mention of war and the exercises they had so rigorously trained for became reality. The country—and their lives—were at stake.

An enrapt audience

If you are interested in hosting a screening in your synagogue, day school (middle or high school), youth group, university campus, summer camp or film festival, please click here for community screenings and here for high schools.  To help support the film and make sure it gets seen in high schools and campuses across the US, click here.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Ross.

Left to right: Private Oren Giladi, Private Mekonan Abeba, First Lt. Eden Adler, Sergeant Coral Amarani after the film

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8 Responses to “Beneath the Helmet”

  1. David December 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Beautifully written! Way to capture the essence of the film. Thanks for sharing.

  2. jill December 11, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    our synagogue hosted a dinner and a screening of this film 2 weeks ago, I attended as my friend works for JOU here in Philly, it was fantastic.

  3. marianne/mom December 12, 2014 at 4:38 am #

    As always you express yourself beautifully. It sounds like something perhaps we could encourage in the East Bay. I will ask around.

    Latest news: an Israeli film was nominated for a Golden Globe award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. Since it is the precursor of the Oscars its pretty important!


  4. Lorre Goldberg December 14, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    You write so beautifully! Yasher koach! I look forward to your helping us bring this to Meitarim, for our families to experience what you did and for this to bring recognition to our school is producing a next generation of which we are so proud!

  5. Charles December 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    when participating at such events, watching this or similar films, seeing the many young soldiers leaving their homes or coming home, boys and girls, etc. I am so proud to be part of this country after having left Switzerland and most importantly I am not at all afraid for the future of Israel … an many thanks to Jennifer for writing so captivating on so many different subjects …

  6. Mona December 16, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    when I asked them,,our JCC Film Festival chairwoman, one of my close friends, and our Film Festival professional told me the committee is screening the film for possible inclusion in our July 2015 festival! And I will send them your wonderful, evocative blog on it.


    Auntie Em

  7. Susan December 18, 2014 at 2:36 am #

    TIC is showing it next month!

  8. Meryl March 25, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    I recently had a chance to see the film at a conference and I cried as well. I am so glad that there are soldiers and filmmakers who are working to change the way Israel and IDF soldiers are portrayed in the media. Hopefully, many more people will get to see this film.

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