Lt. Col. Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu was the only member of the Israeli commando force killed in the 1976 raid that rescued the hostages being held at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. Jonathan Gruber and Ari Daniel Pinchot’s documentary provides a glowing tribute to Netanyahu, whose death at the age of 30 robbed the world of a complex force of energy.
The film relies on remarkably eloquent Netanyahu’s letters and notebook entries to detail the intellectual evolution of a committed Zionist who saw his life’s mission in the military defense of Israel. His nationalism ultimately overruled whatever professional and personal goals he considered – he walked away from a Harvard scholarship and dissolved a happy marriage to concentrate on his work with Israel’s military. While in uniform, he served with great valor in the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, becoming a national hero for his bravery. His leadership in the Entebbe raid created an astonishing victory against Palestinian terrorists, although the film carefully avoids the controversy that later arose surrounding the circumstances of his death.
The film offers a series of interviews with those closest to him, including Netanyahu’s ex-wife and his younger brother, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but these recollections sometimes veer into the hagiographic. Indeed, there are only a few scant suggestions of some character flaws, including Netanyahu’s somewhat sour view of American society during his brief residence in Philadelphia as a teenager and the brief hint that his troops admired his abilities but were less than enthused over his demanding personality.
Nonetheless, this production provides a fitting tribute to one of Israel’s most beloved military heroes.