14 October 2014 (Updated 8 January 2015) | In June 2001 a legendary man stood before a group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and Sar-El volunteers on a base. Brig. Gen. (Res.) Aharon Davidi‘s appearance in civilian garb belied his legendary bravery and leadership qualities.
Davidi, a former commander of the elite Paratrooper Brigade (Hativat HaTzanhanimor חֲטִיבַת הַצַּנְחָנִים) was addressing the assembled personnel. Every word was absorbed by the attentive fatigued-clad listeners. He informed those before him that, “The West does not yet know it, but a war with terrorists has already begun.” Dr. Davidi added, “It will take 100 years but the West will eventually win this struggle.”
Less than 3 months after, on 11 September 2001, brigadier Davidi uttered these words the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon came under aerial attack.
At the time of Davidi’s talk his warnings of future struggles were supplemental material for IDF paratroopers who were and have been at the forefront of military operations against terrorists for decades. Now a new generation of Israelis wearing the uniform is tasked with defending Israel. A Jerusalem U documentary titled Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front strives to record the motivations, thoughts and experiences of a small cadre of men and women who recently strove to become members of this revered outfit.
The Paratrooper Brigade was created in the middle 1950s with the goal of creating an elite infantry force capable of taking the battle to the enemy and leading other IDF troops. The first commander was Ariel Sharon.
The brigade saw action during the 1956 Sinai War, and in the Six Day War (1967) it was one of the units to spearhead the capture of Jerusalem. Paratroopers were in fact the ones to capture the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.
Few applicants are destined to wear the paratroopers’ distinctive reddish boots and red berets. Many dream of joining the Paratrooper Brigade, but only a percentage of applicants graduate. Becoming a paratrooper entails a long and arduous journey; it is mentally and physically strenuous.
The arduous training comprising in excess of 7 months includes fitness training, acquiring and honing combat skills, gaining proficiency with a wide range of weapons, tactics, extended marches, survival training, navigation instruction, camouflage techniques, helicopter deployment training, aerial jump training, building inter-unit collaborative capabilities and learning urban warfare procedures.
Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front focuses on 5 recruits and follows them throughout their induction and training.
Those who have never experienced life in the IDF or the Paratrooper Brigade will undoubtedly find the footage and subjects intensely interesting. The film is in both Hebrew and English, and utilizes English subtitles where necessary.
Through this project Jerusalem U has opened a window into life within an elite military force, and, as the website advertises, the film “explores recruits’ personal lives, dreams, fears and dilemmas, revealing the human side of Israel’s soldiers.” Undoubtedly a bonus, the cinematic endeavor features music by Grammy Award-winning violinist, producer and model Ms. Miri Ben-Ari.
Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front is highly recommended. Screenings are taking place at various venues, and DVDs may be purchased online.
The reviewer (John Stemple) thanks Jerusalem U, Sar-El and the IDF.
Sources, Suggested Readings & Viewings
Beneath the Helmet
Beneath the Helmet Promo Video
IDF 1000 Paratroopers Brigade Jumping in Parachute Exercise 18/1/12 תרגיל צניחה
IDF Volunteer Programs
Let’s overcome our challenges together! Shana Tova from Jerusalem U
Paratroopers Brigade IDF
Remembering Israeli Airborne Forces Icon Aharon Davidi
The Paratroopers Brigade of Israel