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Above and Beyond, The Birth of the Israeli Air Force

This new film, produced by Nancy Spielberg, will have its North American premiere, Sunday, July 27, at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Gino and I plan to attend the opening at the Castro Theatre next weekend. The documentary highlights the role of four Americans involved in the War For Independence and although Gino was not the subject of the film, we felt it was such a once in a lifetime experience that we wanted to be there.

Here’s a short synopsis:

This gripping documentary unfolds like The Great Escape, a true-life wartime adventure story. In 1948, as the British withdrew from Palestine, and five Arab nations prepared to invade Israel, a ragtag group of young men from around the globe volunteered to defend the new country. Called Machal, or volunteers from abroad, many were World War II veterans from the US. Because of an embargo imposed by the Truman administration, Americans risked losing their citizenship by joining the fight. Produced by Nancy Spielberg, younger sister to Steven, this film celebrates the pilots who laid the foundation for the Israeli Air Force. It combines extraordinary archival footage and interviews with scholars, survivors and their descendants. Interviewees range from Shimon Perez to Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman), whose father Milton Rubenfeld flew combat missions. The bravery of these volunteers was incredible. The only aircraft available to them were American and German jets junked after the war, constantly liable to deadly mechanical failure. Amenities were equally scarce (many had to make do with discarded Nazi flight suits.) Despite their shoddy equipment, they exercised enough skill and trickery to persuade the invaders that their small squadron posed a far bigger threat than it really did, helping turn the tide of the war. -Emily Kaiser Thelin

 I’m sure we’ll have more to say about the film after we have seen it. We encourage you to find a place for Above and Beyond, The Birth of the Israeli Air Force to be shown in your community. When these men and women are gone, that part of Israel’s history will also turn a page, never to be turned back.