Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front

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In this documentary film, the producers accompanied five paratroopers for a year, from their first day in the paratroopers basic training to their beret march, and their graduation, when they are sent to protect Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Five young soldiers are from different backgrounds but are united in their experience serving in the IDF – from the shooting ranges, basic training, kitchen duty, and night watches to special training. The five soldiers featured in the film are a diverse group, with each representing the various communities and cultures that exist within Israel. At the age of 18, away from their houses, family, and friends these young individuals undergo a demanding journey, revealing the core of who they are and who they want to be.

Mekonan, immigrated to Israel at age 12 from Ethiopia. He lost his father on the journey to Israel and lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Bnei Brak with his family of ten.

Coral, a beautiful female commander in the IDF school for new immigrants. She is  from the affluent community of the Tel Aviv suburb, Herzliya Pituach

Eilon, the son of a religious family from Ashdod, an Israeli city located near the Gaza strip. Ashdod had it share of  rocket attacks fired on it by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. Eilon is the first to serve in the IDF from his family.

Oren, a lone Jewish soldier, who left peaceful Switzerland to serve as a paratrooper.

Eden, a young officer, the commander of the paratroopers basic trainees. He is from a village in northern Israel by the border with Lebanon, the son of an American immigrant to Israel. Eden joined the IDF after the second Lebanon war, which he felt in the yards surrounding his village. At only 20 years old, he is tasked with guiding 42 paratroopers through the rigors of basic training. He is their teacher, their disciplinarian, their friend, and their mentor.

The film Beneath the Helmet illustrates how these young men and women are protecting not only their homes, but the shared values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights. It is a coming-of-age film about five children who are one day surfing on the beach with friends, and the next day soldiers in the one of the best armies in the world.

Beyond the personal story of the five soldiers, the movie does an excellent job showing that the IDF is an army of young people who teach each other how to become warriors. They do it quickly, efficiently, and professionally. They join the army at the age of 18 straight from high school, without any previous military experience. By the time they are nineteen, they are sergeants who train the next  class. By the time they are 20, they are officers, platoon commanders, responsible for the life of 40 IDF’s combat soldiers, responsible for the defense of the State of Israel.   

“Beneath the Helmet is steeped in such moments of youthful emotion. The soldiers featured in it jump around to the tunes of Macklemore. They roughhouse. They miss their moms. They are startlingly, strikingly young. For those who live outside of Israel, it can be easy to forget that the arduous task of defending the country rests on the shoulders of teenagers.” [Tablet Magazine]

The filmmaker on what she learned while shooting a documentary about the Israeli army: [Excerpt from the Westcheter Magazine]

Being put into a position of responsibility brings out greatness in a person.

“I watched a 20-year-old kid, the film’s Commander Eden, become a leader of men. Commanders have eight months to get these kids battle-ready to face ISIS and really serious enemies. Eden was in a situation where the army took away his sergeants; he was in charge of training everyone without any help. It was almost superhuman what was expected of him. And I watched this kid who was able to bear it because he didn’t have a choice.” 

Every commander is a social worker.

“In the Israeli army, service is not just about training people to be great soldiers. These kids learn how to be great human beings. That was something I didn’t realize. For example, one commander tells a story about one of his soldiers not having a washing machine. So he spent his day off rounding up a huge washing machine to give to his soldier’s family. That was really eye-opening.” 

 

The movie is now available on Netflix

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