This isn’t a Jewish spinoff of M*A*S*H*; it’s the circumstances in which a group of World War II veterans found themselves after volunteering for the unit known as Machal—an acronym meaning “volunteers from outside Israel.” An upcoming film from Katahdin Productions, Above and Beyond, (scheduled for completion in 2014) will be the first full-length documentary about the unit that turned the tide of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and helped establish the Israeli Air Force.
In the trailer, former Machal pilots speak about the clandestine recruitment process, which required them to drop everything to aid the fledgling state. Facing war with 5 Arab neighbors, Machal recruited specialists in what the Palestinian Jews lacked, including artillery and flying. “The idea that Jews were going to fight, I found exciting,” says one volunteer.
What compelled these volunteers to leave their post-war lives to fight so far from home? One pilot remembers seeing Jewish refugees arrive from Europe and kiss the ground. He knew “then and there: that was the reason I came.”