Imagine graduating high school and rather than experiencing the freedom of going away to college, you are thrown into the front line of warfare.
Not worried about which party to go to this Friday night, but of all the civilian lives you are responsible for protecting.
That is what the average teenager experiences in Israel.
Beneath the Helmet began as the sun set Thursday night Mar. 19 at 8 p.m. in SU Room 221. Students could enjoy cookies and coffee while watching the premiere screening of the documentary Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front by Jerusalem U.
Deputy Company Commander, Aviv Regev, who is featured in the film, was present during the screening, and afterward spoke to students about the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and answered any questions they had about the film and about Israel.
“The film was produced over a 2-year period. We followed the soldiers’ lives during their 8-month training period, both in—and out—of the army. That was followed by an extensive post-production period,” Wayne Kopping said, the director and editor of Beneath the Helmet.
Kopping’s documentaries have been seen by over 40,000,000 people worldwide. His work has been featured on CNN and Fox News, as well as in The New York Times and countless other publications and blogs.
“As Eilon Kohan, one of the recruits we feature in the film tells us, kids his age in just about any other country are thinking about what college to attend, which parties to go to, and where to travel. But as a soldier, he’s having to crawl over thorns, realizing that he may be called to put his life on the line to defend the country,” Kopping said.
Kopping said he found it remarkable to witness that this process didn’t leave the soldiers bitter and angry, but rather, filled with courage and a selfless desire to serve and ‘give back, just as those who came before them took a stand to protect the nation.
The audiences often have insightful questions, he said, and who better to answer them, than those soldiers and officers who’s lives are depicted onscreen.
“Over and above all else, these soldiers are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet, so who wouldn’t want to come out to a screening to meet them?” Kopping said.
During his time in the service, Regev was in charge of 120 soldiers, logistics in training, at the time of the film. Meaning, all of the soldiers seen in the film were his soldiers.
When he was 16, he was tending to his family’s orchards when a missile hit near him launched by a terrorist group in the second Lebanon war.
“I realized that for 16 years I had been living peacefully and happily without a worry or care in the world, thanks to the soldiers who were protecting me and my family and that in a few years it would be my turn to do the same,” Regev said.
“Try to think of it, when was the last time you did something that you thought was impossible that there was no way to finish it?” he said to the audience. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
“It’s something that I think is really unique of the Israel Defense Forces, we train our soldiers to pass these mental and physical barriers to realize that nothing is impossible.” At the end of the soldier’s training, as featured in the film, the soldiers are required to walk a distance of 57 miles.
At the age of 21, his skills and motivation allowed him to climb the ranking ladder to become an officer of a platoon. It was at the age of 23 that he became deputy company commander, the age at which he was featured in the film.
“[The film crew] was my biggest worry. The camera man thinks it’s nice to shoot the guns when they’re firing towards the camera, very creative,” Regev said, making the audience laugh. “But they were able to capture the process that we go through, especially in training.”
He explained the responsibilities of being a commander at a young age, and all the sacrifices made and decisions that carry the lives of so many others. Regev did not lose any of his soldiers under his command and he did not have to kill anyone during his time in the service.
After finishing his service in Nov. 2013, Jerusalem U approached him and asked if he would be interested in representing the film in the United States.
“As you can imagine after 5 years in the army it was not on the top of my to-do list,” he said.
He then told them politely no, and later found himself crossing China by himself. He traveled 2,000 miles from north to south, and hiked a few hundred miles in New Zealand. It was during that time that he met a lot of teenagers from over a dozen countries who were were interested in his story and asked him many questions.
“The problem is that these questions were based on propaganda and lies and misconceptions. And that was when I realized there was this whole other war going on in the international media and on campuses,” Regev said. “And once I understood this that there’s not only a physical battlefront but a verbal one I felt like I couldn’t sit on the sidelines and watch.”
It was for this reason that he decided to represent the film in the states; to share his stories and to answer any questions about Israel that students may have.
Rebekah Kanefsky, 19, is a senior majoring in Psychology.
“The club is pro-Israel and aims to educate students and the Orlando community about Israel,” she said.
Kanefsky is the event coordinator for knights for Israel, and first got involved in the club because she knew the current club president in high school, and had introduced her to Knights for Israel when she came to college.
“I am really passionate about Israel and advocating for it, so that’s why I wanted to get involved,” she said.
“I liked [the film] because it was an effective reminder that Israeli soldiers are human too. The Israeli people just want their children to come home safe and the soldiers are very similar to you and I in many aspects,” Kanefsky said.
“Other pro Israel groups around the country also are screening [the film] and I think it’s an interesting documentary that makes students feel supportive of the soldiers. I think the film was beneficial because it was inspirational to watch the soldiers go through those experiences,” Kanefsky said.