Unlikely Heroes Trailer
Unlikely Heroes: The Men & Women Who Saved Israel
The film Unlikely Heroes is the only way to reverse the tides that are turning our youth against Israel. The film consists of first-hand testimonials of the volunteers who stood up for Israel at its darkest hour. These individuals had the moral clarity to fully understand Israel's importance. People like Paul Kaye, who when asked to fight for Israel and leave his comfortable life in the United States, replied: "Let's go."
Through the Eyes of History
Following in the tradition of acclaimed filmmaker Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, Jeff Hoffman's Unlikely Heroes: The Men & Women Who Saved Israel captures the history of (modern) Jewish independence in the first person. In production, this film begins with the testimonies of some of the most unlikely heroes, both men and women, who helped Israel rise out of the ashes of the Holocaust to become a sovereign nation.
Riveting and truly inspirational, Unlikely Heroes presents for the first time proprietary interviews with the courageous individuals who fought for Israel's independence in its darkest hours. The David and Goliath nature of Israel gaining its independence, as well as the Biblical implications of the Jewish people returning to the Promised Land, will have worldwide appeal for people of all faiths.
In addition to what we will produce for Unlikely Heroes, we have enough footage and unique stories to create numerous additional episodes. The tales are fascinating.
Jerry Gross, from Montreal, pictured in 1947. He's alive and well at 93. Books could be written about his exploits defending Israel. For example, he relates how he and a fellow soldier were ordered to attack a strategically located Arab village. Faced with an impossible task, he devised a plan to encircle the village with alarm clocks, set for an appointed time. The unsuspecting enemy troops awoke to the noise and fired their weapons with abandon, exposing their positions to deadly gunfire. When the dust settled, Jerry and his fellow soldier had won the day and lived to tell about it.
Stories that Will Inspire Generations
Unlikely Heroes, as history in the first person, tells the story of how both men and women from over 50 countries displayed remarkable courage as they fought and sacrificed for the State of Israel and her independence. Firsthand accounts of their selfless bravery include the smuggling of war materials into Israel, as well as the rescuing of refugees in Europe who would later contribute to securing the survival of the Jewish state.
Young men and women sacrificed their comfortable lives to assist survivors of the Holocaust, smuggling them into Palestine on rickety ships and banana boats to evade the British blockade. The film also reveals how Israel's independence was funded and supported by individuals from around the world.
The inspiring exploits also include the building and use of a little known underground bullet factory hidden beneath the noses of the British army that produced over 4 million bullets for Israel's War of Independence. There will also be personal accounts of how the former Nazi aircraft and weapons were dropped undercover throughout Palestine, smuggled in pieces from Europe and reassembled on the ground.
You will learn how individuals secretly acquired planes, weapons, and ammunition from North America and Czechoslovakia, the latter also training Jewish and non-Jewish pilots to fly fighter planes at military airstrips in the European countryside.
The viewer will also discover how the early paramilitary Jewish defense forces, such as Haganah and the Irgun, began working internationally to recruit pilots, sailors, and soldiers to train and fight for Israel. Alongside those with military experience, volunteers as young as fourteen joined the wave of support, many finding themselves almost immediately in the midst of battle with little to no training.
Touching on subjects ranging from the early 20th century until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 (such as the Balfour act and the civil war in Palestine), the film begins with a fast-paced summary of the historical factors that led up to the Jewish displacement after the Holocaust. The archival footage, narration, and on-camera interviews provide background for the crisis that faced the Jewish people in the aftermath of WWII and the looming threat of war in Palestine.
Unlikely Heroes details in the most personal terms how people of all faiths, from all over the world rallied for Israel and for the sake of humanity, giving new meaning to the phrase Ein Breira--no alternative.
In this increasingly polarized and misinformed world, it becomes the obligation of individuals to ensure that the truths and intentions of history are not erased and rewritten by those disconnected from it. With the State and the people of Israel becoming more and more isolated from the international Jewish community thanks to worldwide political strife and unrest, it is our duty now more than ever to understand and recognize the value of an independent Jewish state, and honor those who made it possible by sharing their unique and incredible experiences.
Unlikely Heroes: The Men & Women Who Saved Israel captures the development of modern Jewish independence in the first person. Currently in production, this film begins with the testimonies of some of the most unlikely heroes, both men and women, who helped Israel rise out of the ashes of the Holocaust to become a sovereign nation.
Had it not been for an extraordinary groundswell of mass heroism 70 years ago, the fate of the Jewish people might have been as fragile as it was only 20 years before that, when the Nazi party began it's rise through the political system in Germany. Thanks to the determination and fearlessness of early Zionists such as Hillel Kook and Ben Hecht in the 1930s and '40s, awareness of the Holocaust in America grew, paving the way for Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion to later appeal to the international community for support in rescuing refugees and defending Israel.
Unlikely Heroes, as history in the first person, tells the story of how men and women from over 50 countries– young adults, former World War II soldiers, business people, Holocaust refugees, Jews and gentiles – came together as volunteers in a spontaneous, largely improvised effort to help establish a nation for the Jewish people. Despite impossible odds and nearly insurmountable obstacles, they succeeded, displaying remarkable courage as they fought and sacrificed for the right to self-determination in the land of Israel.
Their individual stories are fascinating – and largely unknown. There’s the tale of the Central American “banana boats” that evaded an international embargo to transport European refugees to Palestine. Elite fighters like the teenage Shaul Sapir, trained to act like Arabs and sent underground to infiltrate enemy areas. The covert group of North American Jewish business leaders who secretly raised the equivalent of $2.5 billion for the cause, and Canadian businessman Harry Mitz, who manufactured and shipped machine parts and weapons to Israel at the risk of his own life and freedom.
The ragtag Czech war-surplus aircraft from which crew members like South African Smoky Simon acted as “bomb chuckers,” dropping bombs by hand on their targets. Young Polish Catholic Duke Labaczewski, who left his comfortable life in Philadelphia to smuggle refugees and join an elite fighting force in the Galilee, and Navajo Jesse Slade from Oklahoma, who decided to join his two best friends in defense of their homeland because if it was important to them, he decided, it must be important to him too. The underground bullet factory that operated for more than two years hidden beneath a fake laundry shop, the TNT on its way to Palestine exploding on a dock in New York City, and many, many more.
Most of these stories have gone untold for seven decades – until now.
Unlikely Heroes is a film that brings these tales of heroism and passion to life – often in the first-hand accounts of the extraordinary men and women who lived them.
Unlikely Heroes is:
A compelling documentary detailing a pivotal but largely unknown period in Jewish history
A moving testimony to the audacity, courage, and relentlessness of “ordinary” people who were willing to sacrifice all to establish the state of Israel
A fascinating saga of real-life covert operations and derring-do that rivals Hollywood action films
A vital, much-needed educational resource to inspire and strengthen the bonds of heritage and faith that connect younger Jews to the nation their forebears fought to create
"Never Again" is ringing hollow because we are moving the wrong direction. If you don't want it to happen again, do something. Our film is the "do something." It will inspire a soon-to-be-lost generation by empowering them with the heroes who saved Israel.
The inspiration for this series is my Zionist grandfather. Born in Vilnius, Leo Quint of Newton, Massachusetts was an upholstery shop owner who traveled to Israel with his GMC work vans, which he then donated to the nascent Israeli Defense Forces who converted them into badly needed ambulances.
Jeff Hoffman & Divvy Ahronheim
Jeff Hoffman is a dual citizen of the US and Canada and a longtime producer and cinematographer, having worked for years worldwide with a focus on documentary production.
His interest and curiosity about World War II and the Holocaust has led to extensive research on the many Canadians, Americans, South Africans, Jews, and non-Jews, who volunteered to fight alongside the Jews in Palestine for Israeli Statehood.
Divvy Ahronheim is a Montreal based producer, writer, and educator. Her strong personal and professional connections to Jewish life and Israel have fueled a career in education and now filmmaking, combining two of her life-long passions to help bring this documentary project to life.
At the request of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir and despite all embargoes on the region, airplanes, arms, and ships secretly purchased by wealthy American Jews were transported to Palestine overseas under the noses of the FBI and the occupying British. Though it was illegal in the United States, many young men and women also volunteered to fight, leading to these amazing stories depicting the birth of the State of Israel.
"Unlikely Heroes" has evolved into an incredible historical documentary series involving surviving members from 58 countries. The 4000 International Jewish and non-Jewish volunteer soldiers, along with the financiers who, under the threat of prison and death, funded the smuggling operation and rallied support around the world for the defense of the newborn state, while the Arab nations were prepared to “sweep the Jews into the sea.” After the horrors of the Holocaust there would be no second chance, and so there was no choice. It was a fight for survival, Ein Breira.
We have been filming throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Israel over the last few years, capturing on High Definition 4k video interviews with participants and locations that played a key role in the War of Independence.
With the 70th anniversary celebration of the declaration of the State of Israel just passed, now is the perfect time for the voices of these brave men and women to be heard. It is our responsibility to make sure their stories are never forgotten, and continue to pass from generation to generation.
Smoky Simon, Chief of Air Operations in Israel's War of Independence, Machal from South Africa, filmed in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Joel Schalit, Son of Elie Schalit, "Materials for Palestine," filmed in Berlin
Danny Shapira, Israeli ace fighter pilot during the War of Independence, Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, filmed in Haifa, Israel.
Ann Bussell, Daughter of Sonneborn Institute member, Shepard Broad, responsible for outfitting refugee ships, filmed in Miami.
Marcia Wolman, Machal from South Africa, served as an Air Force meteorological instructor, filmed in Connecticut.
Martin Dvorak, Consulate General Czech Republic, filmed in New York City.
Shaul Sapir, Palmach Mist'arvim (Hidden Arab), filmed in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Duke Labaczewski, Machal from New York, served on the Aliyah Bet refugee ship "Hatikvah," filmed in New Jersey.
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