Above and Beyond
The Fellowship | July 25, 2023
For those who stand for Israel, the United States, and these two nations’ unbreakable bond, moments from history that solidified this friendship are surely inspiring. Today, we’re sharing a 2014 message from Rabbi Eckstein, about a movie that documented the beginning of that bond in the earliest days of the modern state of Israel. Above and Beyond tells the story of American pilots who fought for Israel, and features interviews with many of these pilots and their families (the son of one pilot is Paul Reubens, the beloved comedian and children’s entertainer). Read the Rabbi’s words, then watch the film.
It sounds like the plot of an adventure novel or a thriller war movie: A fledgling state must fight for its life against surrounding countries that are hostile to its very existence. The citizens of this new state are grossly underequipped, greatly outnumbered by their enemies, and seemingly incapable of defending themselves. Yet, through a combination of raw courage, ingenuity, and the indispensable help of volunteers from around the world who want it to survive, the fledgling state – Israel – prevails
Amazingly, this story is true, and it’s chronicled in a new documentary by Nancy Spielberg (younger sister of famed director Steven Spielberg). Above and Beyond tells the little-known story of a group of combat pilots, most of them Jewish Americans, who in 1948 went to the newly independent state of Israel to fight off the Arab attack that followed Israel’s declaration of independence. These men not only turned the tide of the war in Israel’s favor, they also laid the groundwork for the formation of the Israeli Air Force.
Above and Beyond reminds us that Israel’s War of Independence was, quite literally, a matter of life or death for hundreds of thousands of Jews. Many had fled to Israel from Europe after surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, and saw in Israel’s independence the possibility of finally having a country where they could live freely and determine their own fates.
For the pilots who volunteered to help Israel secure that independence – risking their U.S. citizenships and their lives – the outrages of the Holocaust compelled them to leave their comfortable lives in post-WWII America to fight for what they knew was a just cause. They were also imbued with a unique and powerful sense of purpose: As one of the pilots, Lou Lenart, puts it in the film, “I was born to be here, on that moment of history, to contribute to Israel’s survival.” It is the interviews with these extraordinary men, coupled with rare archival film footage of the events that occurred before, during, and after Israel’s War of Independence, that forms the heart of this film, and brings to life this compelling chapter in history.
Above and Beyond is a story of bravery and commitment, and ultimately, one of the victory and unity of the Jewish people. Set for general theatrical release in 2015, the film is now being shown at film festivals around the world, with a number of screenings scheduled for the U.S. I strongly encourage you to visit the film’s website to find out if there is a showing in your area, and to find out how you can host a special screening at your local theater, church, or synagogue.
Asked if during those dark days of the war he thought Israel would survive, another one of the pilots, Coleman Goldstein, replied, “Somehow, yes, and I’ll tell you why. Israel is an article of faith.” Indeed, all people of faith, Jews and Christians alike, who see the hand of God at work in the formation of the modern state of Israel, will be thrilled by Above and Beyond, and will truly gain from it a deeper appreciation of how the modern Jewish state became, despite the efforts of its enemies, the “light unto the nations” that it is today.