In 1948, a group of World War II pilots, mostly from America, volunteered to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. As members of "Machal" - volunteers from abroad - this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, preventing the possible annihilation of Israel at the very moment of its birth; they also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force.
Above and Beyond is their story.
The first major feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen in the War of Independence, Above and Beyond brings together new interviews with pilots from the '48 War, as well as leading scholars and statesmen, including President Shimon Peres, to present an extraordinary, little-known tale with reverberations up to the present day.
Filmed in the U.S., Israel and the Czech Republic, Above and Beyond recounts the harrowing missions of the men who helped repel five Arab armies and create Israel's vaunted Air Force. The film follows the pilots on their circuitous route from the United States - where they met and trained in secret and struggled to stay two steps ahead of the FBI - to Panama, Casablanca, Rome and even behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, where they flew versions of the very Nazi planes they had tried to shoot down in World War II.
Recalling the terrifying first days of the war, when Arab armies occupied East Jerusalem and advanced perilously close to Tel Aviv, Above and Beyond reveals how underequipped and isolated the Israelis were, how desperately they needed planes and pilots and how critical the actions of a handful of young American men were for the country's survival.
Set against the backdrop of an emerging nation still reeling from the horrors of the Holocaust, Above and Beyond examines the motivations of the foreign volunteers - Jews and non-Jews, some Zionists, many others not. It mines the tensions between the Israelis and Machal soldiers - Would the foreign pilots stay in Israel after the war? Were they Americans first or Jews first? The film recounts the personal stories of the young pilots, whose experiences in Israel were life altering. And ultimately, the film taps into universal themes of courage, commitment and sacrifice. At a time when much of the world stood by, unwilling to help a fledgling nation under attack, a tiny band of airmen answered the call for help. They risked their citizenship, their futures and even their lives. Above and Beyond finally gives them their due.
If you are a student or a professor:Watch now
If you are a librarian or a professor: