From high school to the home front

The Jerusalem Post
By Christine Rytter

The timing couldn't of been better. Soon after Operation Protective Edge has placed the issue of IDF service back in the forefront of the Israeli consciousness, a new feature-length documentary about the process Israeli youth go through on the way to becoming soldiers is about to be released.

After a two-year production, the educational film Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Homefront will have its world premiere on Saturday night in Jerusalem before an invitation-only audience including former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren.


The film follows the eight-month basic training of five teenagers who enlisted in the paratroopers, some of them just out of high school: Ethiopian immigrant Mekonan, lone soldier Oren, always smiling Elon, sergeant Coral and commander Eden.

As the title implies, the story does more than scratch the surface; we follow the soldiers when they go home to their worried families and undergo questioning from their friends. We are invited into to the homes of all five soldiers – including Oren, who left his family in Switzerland to serve in the military when he was only 18.

The film was financed by Jerusalem U, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 by Rabbi Raphael Shore, that creates films, film-based classes and courses to inspire Jewish identity in Israeli and Diaspora youth.

Among their productions is the documentary Israel Inside, How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference.

The film’s producer and writer, Rebecca Shore, said she has personal reasons for choosing to make a movie about the IDF. She saw her own son change and become another person.

”[In the movie] we see how to make young soldiers into people, who can contribute to society. It’s an untold story, a point of view that hasn’t been shared,” Shore said.

She chose the paratroopers for several reasons: ”It has a cachet – many people have watched and enjoyed [popular HBO series] Band of Brothers, and in the paratroop brigade there is a required diversity of people. But also because of the jump. Visually it’s exciting.”

Lt. Aviv Regev, Eden’s direct commander, has responsibility for 120 soldiers, and explains that it takes more than just presence to be a part of the paratroopers.

”I need to be 100 percent certain that they can do it. If a soldier is not professional or has a problem with values, he can’t be a paratrooper. He has to fit in.”

Shore emphasizes how important the brotherhood is within the brigade. In the film, Mekonan is struggling with family problems, and we see how that affects his comrades.

”In the movie you see the other soldiers step up for Mekonan. These guys really care about each other. They are extended family. You bond with people, when you go through trauma,” Shore said.

After Shore received approval from the IDF for the project, the crew arrived at the army base and asked the soldiers who spoke English to volunteer. Apart from a soldier in the special forces, who couldn’t have his face shown in the film, Eden was the only one who raised his hand. He turned out to be a perfect candidate for the film, and the rest shortly followed. The final movie is a mix of Hebrew and English.

Following the premiere Saturday night at Cinema City, Jerusalem U hopes to screen Beneath the Helmet in schools in Israel and abroad.

The original article was published here.