There are many programs coming up on Israeli television to mark the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and one documentary series worth watching is Ha Achat (The One – 201 squadron), a look at the Israel Air Force squadron, nicknamed The One during the war, and how the airmen and ground crew coped with operational chaos and were able to fulfill their missions in spite of suffering devastating losses. Directed by Gilad Tocatly, it will be shown on Kan 11 starting September 18, with one part shown every evening after the news at 21:15, for four nights.
Based on the first part, which was screened for the press at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, during which many of the veterans of the squadron spoke, it is a thrilling ride, one that is at times both funny and sad. The series takes an in-depth look at this squadron, the first in Israel to use the two-man US-made Phantom F-4 fighter jets.
201squadron suffered the highest losses in the war: seven pilots and navigators were killed, 14 were taken captive, and 15 aircraft were hit, many of them severely damaged.
The squadron flew 758 sorties and registered 35 enemy aircraft kills, more than any other squadron.
Ha Achat examines the period leading up to the Yom Kippur War, including the acquisition of the Phantom jets during the War of Attrition, as well as the horrific incident, just a few months before the war, in which the IAF shot down a Libyan airliner that flew into Israeli airspace.
It also looks at life on the base and paints a portrait of those who served there in great detail, as much of it was based on an article by and the memories of journalist Sima Kadmon, who was an 18-year-old ops room soldier in the squadron when the war broke out.
As she reminisces, you get the feeling that even at the time, she knew she was working with an extraordinary group of pilots, who now read like a Who’s Who of the most influential Israelis. They included Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who was forced into a position of responsibility he hadn’t expected, by the events of the war, and who gives the impression of someone who surpassed his own expectations, and then some, at the toughest moments. The squadron also included two future IAF commanders, Dan Halutz (who went on to become IDF chief of staff) and Eitan Ben Eliyahu.
Gil Regev, who served as the head of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate, is also one of the interviewees.
The veterans’ recollections, especially from the early days of the war, mirror what we have heard from soldiers in other parts of the military that point to a lack of preparedness on the part of their commanders.
They speak about the confusing orders they received, to go south and then north. At one point they were told to guard Mitzpe Ramon. Their grace in trying conditions comes through in the interviews, which are mixed with surprisingly high-quality archival footage of the pilots in action.
The One is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the Israel Air Force and the Yom Kippur War, but also for those who just want to see a gripping documentary. In a few weeks, Kan will also broadcast the series version of the movie, The Stronghold.
Something entirely different
If you’re in the mood for a different kind of thriller, try Bay of Fires on Hot on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., and on Hot VOD and Next TV. It’s a quirky story about a wealthy, entitled CEO, played by Marta Dusseldorp of A Place to Call Home, whose life is suddenly upended when one of her employees discovers some accounting irregularities and it turns out that hitmen are after her and her children. A rather scary government official (Rachel House) tells her to hit the road with her somewhat spoiled children right away and head for a Tasmanian town called Mystery Bay.
It’s true that this premise is not exactly novel, but it’s done very well, and the series plays a bit like Schitt’s Creek meets Ozark. The residents of the town are a creepy lot, involved in all kinds of criminal activities – they are all in a kind of witness protection program – and there is also a cult that gets involved. It’s fun to see Dusseldorp, a very winning actress, cope with such stresses as a floor that collapses, a kid who isn’t allowed to use Wi-Fi, and ugly donated clothes, but of course, the real fun is seeing how she learns to rely on herself.