20 years ago, after enlisting in the IDF during Chanukah, I was in the middle of Tironut (basic training) in the Armored Corps; just another olive in a sea of olive green. As I think back on the steps that led me down that path, I remember that in the months leading up to my making aliyah, I was reading Israel-related books, which kept me fired up about my impending leap of faith.
In particular, I read Self-Portrait of a Hero: The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu, (1963-1976) (in Hebrew – “Michtavei Yoni”) multiple times, and I can recall exactly what I was thinking and feeling as I turned each page (for those of you looking for a copy, they reprinted it a few years ago, though it’s temporarily out of stock………..D’oh!).
Of course I also watched the Israeli-made Operation Thunderbolt (in Hebrew – “Mivtza Yonatan”), and the two made-for-TV movies shown on American network television, Raid on Entebbe and Victory at Entebbe. To be sure, they featured Yoni Netanyahu to an extent (including, notably, Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon*. who played Yoni in Operation Thunderbolt), as Yoni was the miraculous mission’s commander. But while these films focused more on him as a military leader, there’s never been a film that brought Yoni the person to life as vividly as the book did for me.
Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu, then a commander in the Israeli army, was killed at the age of 30 leading the 1976 hostage rescue mission at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. In Follow Me, co-directors Jonathan Gruber (Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray, NYJFF 2011) and Ari Daniel Pinchot (Producer, Paper Clips) present a moving portrait of Yoni’s life through his own poetry, prose and letters. Ultimately a portrait of a young country through a young man, the documentary also features rarely seen footage of the 1967 war and the Entebbe raid itself, as covered by journalism legend Walter Cronkite. An Ari Daniel Pinchot Film.
Since I don’t live n NYC, you won’t be able to…wait for it…Follow Me…to the premiere (get it?…………………..I feel shame), but if any of you attends what promises to be a terrific event, please come back to the comment section and let me know how it went (including the Q&A with co-directors Jonathan Gruber & Ari Daniel Pinchot). In the meantime, here are a couple of bonus videos, to get you fired up for next week’s premiere:
Raid on Entebbe:
* If you’re wondering why I linked Yehoram Gaon’s name to that particular blog post, scroll down to the last paragraph for the answer.