Beneath the Helmet
IEC/Hillel Israel Intern
Northern Illinois University
Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front is more than just a film. It is a thoughtful documentary of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that sheds light on the personal stories and lives of those who serve. As the film follows five soldiers, we are given a different view into their lives as the storyline fluctuates between each soldier. Through the lens of these stories we are able to see the scope of Israel's values- peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance and women's rights.
As the Hillel/IEC Israel Intern at Northern Illinois University (NIU), I was given the opportunity to screen this film in one of NIU's Military Science classes. Even more exciting was that we actually hosted Oren Giladi, an IDF Private featured in the film. Oren is a "lone soldier" from Switzerland. He left Israel at the age of five, but came back at eighteen to serve in the IDF.
The ROTC cadets and other students in the course watched the film, then Oren led the class in a discussion about the similarities and differences between the IDF and America's military. After the event concluded the professor of the class, who is a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) in the United States Army and a professor of military science at NIU, decided to show the film in his other ROTC classes. The feedback received from him and the Military Science Department was extremely positive. The LTC told me that, "the film facilitated a lot of discussion for us about military leadership. Some of the issues covered in the film are 'soldier issues,' which are common to all nations. As such, there was a lot of discussion about the leadership examples shown in the film and the responsibilities that go with being a military leader. Overall, I would say it was a valuable experience for the Cadets."
It was exciting to see how much of an impact this film made on students of different backgrounds. Many of the students participating in ROTC will be America's future leaders and share in many of the same challenges that the IDF faces. Although this was only one event, these students were exposed to Israel and walked away with a connection to her.
For me this film was a reminder of how much I value the commitment and sacrifice of those serving and defending my homeland. I could never imagine entering the army at the age of 18 and being forced to make extremely difficult decisions. I see these soldiers coming straight from high school, both men and women, putting their lives on the line for their family, their friends- our people.
I was grateful to share this story- our story with students on my campus. In times of war, the IDF is often dehumanized in the media. This was an opportunity to combat that message and give the cadets at NIU something to relate to and remember.