IDF documentary gets local premiere

‘Beneath the Helmet’

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

Jewish Film Society will present the St. Louis premiere of “Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front,” a documentary about young soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, as the second film in its spring series. 

The film has a St. Louis connection in Pamela Fox Claman, one of its associate producers. Claman, a native St. Louisan, is the daughter of Sam Fox, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, and his wife, Marilyn. Claman lives in Israel with her husband, Aba Claman, but she will be in St. Louis to introduce the film at the local screening. 

“Beneath the Helmet” follows the experiences of a diverse group of Israeli soldiers as they come of age while serving in the military. It was created and distributed by Jerusalem U., a film production company, with support from Thank Israeli Soldiers, an organization Claman and her husband co-founded. 

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Claman said the couple wanted to do something to help support Israel. 

“We couldn’t join the army — we were much older when we moved to Israel – so we wanted to do something for those people who are serving, and protecting, really, democracy and freedom everywhere,” she said. “When the producers wanted to make this film, they asked if this was something we might be able to help with.” 

Thank Israeli Soldiers assists soldiers from when they join the IDF until they transition back to civilian life. It delivers care packages and educational programs to connect soldiers with Israel’s history, and offers ways for civilians to learn about the IDF and support its work. 

“Each soldier (in the film) has a unique life story and personality, and it really comes out through the film,” Claman said. “(Think about) what a kid at 18 is doing in America (compared with) what a kid at 18 is doing in Israel. Through the film you can appreciate the transformation in a person who serves in the IDF.” 

Claman feels that skills learned by the soldiers are valuable to them as citizens. 

“You have to learn discipline, integrity and how to work in a group, leadership and respect, all of these things. It is an incredible maturing experience,” she said.

“I can’t imagine going in and training to face some of the situations they have to face. Israeli soldiers learn to protect Israel so all of us can walk the streets feeling safe, We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

The film is being shown at film festivals and is being used as a teaching tool in schools, synagogues and community groups, Claman said.

One of the groups Thank Israeli Soldiers partners with is the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, which has sent more than 100 St. Louis women to Israel. 

“The groups meet with soldiers on the third meal of Shabbat with women from around the world,” Claman said. “And then they go to a base to visit the soldiers and bring packages to show their gratitude.”