Jewish Film Festival Shows Movie Tribute to Yoni Netanyahu

Yoni Netenyahu Film Premiere

Last month the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation held a Jewish Film Festival at Osgood Landing in North Andover, attracting more than 150 people from around the area.

The film festival’s feature presentation “Follow Me, The “Yoni” Netanyahu Story,” left many in attendance with tears in their eyes as they left the theater at Osgood Landing.

Yoni Netanyahu was the older brother of current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and a legendary hero in Israel. 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 the film “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 American news legend Walter Cronkite.

Laura Rodman, president of The Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation said that she found herself not only choked up during the film, but became a bit emotional just talking about it afterwards with The Valley Patriot.

“I first saw the rough cut last November and I’m all choked up now the way I was then,” she said.

“The fact that they were able to use all that footage, both the personal footage and the war scenes, everything about it was so authentic it has to move anyone who sees it.”

Rodman, lives in Nashua NH and originally hails from Brooklyn NY, and is in her first year as president of the organization. She said she saw “Follow Me” at the General Assembly of the Federation of North American Jewish Federation convention last November and knew right away that the film needed to be showed in Merrimack Valley.

“It shows how a man in the army … of any army, can be so poetic and speak so beautifully and really have two different lives. It just blows my mind, that’s the only way I can put it.”

Laurie Tishler Mindlin, who has been the Executive Director of the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation for five years, told The Valley Patriot that seeing the film is very important not only for Jews but for everyone.

“I thought it was very important to show this film now because I think that today people don’t have heroes. They don’t have people to look up to, to live up to, to learn about and to aspire to be like them. I think today people struggle with a passionate commitment to Israel. This film shows that.”

Mindlin said that the movie reflects a time when people came together and supported Israel and cared for the State of Israel .

“And what’s really no difference today is that people so urgently want to wipe Israel off the map. But there isn’t the support for Israel today that there used to be. That is why it was important to show it now.”

Mindlin said she also saw the rough cut of the movie last November with Laura Rodman and added, “I previewed it again a few days ago I thought it was very moving, very moving.”

“This film was very well put together,” she continued. “This was years and years of going through footage, hours and hours of film to edit.”

“Next month it’s in a couple of festivals across the country and then after that it will be opening in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and southern Florida. Depending on how that goes it will be opening in other smaller communities. I think Boston is a second tier community but we expect it will be shown there later this year.”

Mindlin said that even though “Follow Me” is a Jewish story “I think a lot of non-Jewish people will want to come and see this. It is universal though, everyone who sees this will benefit from it.”

With more than 150 people turning out for the festival, Mindlin said that she was very happy with the turnout. “We would always like to have more people,” she said. “But I am very happy that so many came out to see this.”

“The Jewish federation provides a variety of experiences throughout the world and various different people from different backgrounds might come to a Jewish film festival that might come to a family concert and so we are happy to provide something for all aspects of the community.”

Colonel Sam Poulten, owner of WCAP radio and a resident of Chelmsford was also on hand for the festival and spoke to the audience prior to the movie presentation.

On stage he recounted how he was in Israel with Yoni one day when Yoni tried to convince him to move to Israel.

“We were walking about 4AM, he was in the lead as he always was, and we were with another Israeli soldier at the time. He said ‘look at what is going on in the United States how can you live in a country that is so violent and has so much racial unrest?” The audience burst into laughter. “Then he stopped and told us to ‘only step where I step and only move where I move.” When I asked him why he said “explosives”. The audience roared with laughter again.

Poulten recounted how Yoni was his inspiration to join the US Army and added “what I learned from Yoni is that if I didn’t do it, someone else was going to have to. And if everybody does a little bit, nobody has to do a lot.”

Poulten said in 1976 he and his wife Gail were celebrating the bicentennial “when the news came to us in our hotel room about the raid on Entebbe and we were elated like everyone else was. The news said there was only one fatality and we were celebrating such a great victory… until we learned that the one was Yoni.”

The festival also featured a comedic film by Yisrael Campbell, a Philadelphia born Catholic who converted to Judaism.
For more information on the Merrimack Valley Jewish Federation you can visit them on-line at:

Tom Duggan, Publisher The Valley Patriot
Tom Duggan


Tom Duggan is publisher of Valley Patriot, Inc., a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass Citizens Alliance, a Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program from 10-noon on WCAP every Saturday. You can email him at

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A ll pictures and written material are (C) Copyright, Tom Duggan & Valley Patriot, Inc., 2012, All rights reserved


All pictures and written material are (C) Copyright, Tom Duggan & Valley Patriot, Inc., 2012, All rights reserved