Roberta Grossman’s chronicle of the secret history of the Israeli Air Force made its debut at Jerusalem last year. It went on to screen at DOC NYC, Palm Springs, Sedona, Heartland, and at Jewish fests in San Francisco, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Boston, Nashville, Hong Kong, Cleveland, and Vancouver, among several others.
The foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 was met with immediate anxiety. As the countdown to the British withdrawal from Palestine commenced, so too did the preparation for invasion from the fledgling, would-be nation’s neighboring Arab countries. In the absence of a military infrastructure – or trained pilots – Jewish leaders sought planes, ammunitions, and the expertise of war-tested veterans in the US, Canada, South Africa, and elsewhere. This unlikely, motley crew, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, formed a skeletal, but surprisingly effective, air squadron that, as argued in Grossman’s film, meant all the difference in ensuring the survival of the Zionist dream of statehood. A project initiated by producer Nancy Spielberg, the well-crafted film tracks down survivors to recount the untold and often electrifying story of the 101 squadron – so named as to suggest that Israel actually had 100 other squadrons at the ready – and the sacrifices they made to secretly fight for the Jewish people, risking citizenship in defiance of America’s Neutrality Act, and potential death in the sky.