In a new coming-of-age film, five young Israelis make the transition from students to soldiers. As they do, the viewer gains an inside view on what it is like to be a youth in Israel today. Their experiences shape who they are and who they want to become; their journeys provide meaningful perspectives about Israeli aspirations and realities.
A free screening of Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front, presented by Marlboro Jewish Center, will be held on Sunday, Jan. 11, at Marlboro Middle School. One of the soldiers featured in the film will take part in a discussion.
The film also provides the one thing often missing in discourse on the Middle East, according to Keith Krivitzky, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, a cosponsor of the screening. “It’s the human element so essential to promoting understanding and support of Israel,” he said.
Produced by Jerusalem U, which creates feature films and film-based educational units to create and strengthen connections with Israel, Beneath the Helmet was completed in Israel this fall and is appropriate for viewers age 10 and up. (A preview also cosponsored by the federation was scheduled for Dec. 25 at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County in Freehold.)
“This film is not a dry documentary. It’s inspiring, poignant, touching, humorous,” said Jules Cohn of Manalapan, chair of the Israel Affairs Committee at Marlboro Jewish Center. “We want people to come away understanding more about Israel: why they have to have a military and what people are doing when they give up three years to serve in the military.”
In Beneath the Helmet, he added, “you can see people maturing from kids, typical high schoolers, into combat soldiers who still go home for Shabbat.” Cohn said the movie also helps underscore the difference between the American army — in which he himself served for 23 years in reserve and two years on active duty — and the Israeli army. “What are you really defending if you go into the U.S. military? Does anyone think Canada or Mexico is going to get angry and send rockets?” he asked.
He said the major difference is that in Israel soldiers are providing defense where they live; “it’s your homeland, your family that is being attacked, and everyone feels the impact. It’s not theoretical; it’s real.”
Beneath the Helmet was made available for area screenings through a grant from the Beth and Andrew Fromkin Family Foundation, which underwrote the creation of a broad partnership between Jerusalem U and Jewish Federation of Middlesex County and Jewish Federation of Monmouth County (the two federations will merge Jan. 1).
The federations’ partnership with Jerusalem U makes its educational and engagement programs available through all organizations, synagogues, schools, and other channels in the Jewish community. The goal, said Krivitzky, is to meet the needs expressed by people who “want to be more supportive and more plugged in with Israel.”