Director: José Padilha (“Narcos,” “Elite Squad”)
Writer: Gregory Burke (“’71”)
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Lior Ashkenazi, and Denis Ménochet
A gripping thriller inspired by the true events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, the film depicts the most daring rescue mission ever attempted.
As Shai Gross, the youngest of the hostages in the 1976 Entebbe Operation, recounted at the SHALVA 26th Anniversary Dinner, “When I was six, my parents and I were among the hostages. For a full week we sat, captives in Entebbe with pistols and grenades threatening our lives. The terrorists separated the children into business-class to avoid parents acting up in defense of their children. My mother however, was able to hide me under her seat. I was only six, yet I remember asking her, ‘Does dying hurt?’”
The Entebbe Operation is forever marked in the collective Jewish consciousness. On June 27, 1976, four terrorists hijacked Flight 139 on-route from Tel Aviv to Paris. They were armed with pistols and a grenade with the pin removed which they held as insurance against being attacked by the passengers. The flight was diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the government supported the hijackers. All non-Jewish passengers were released while over 100 Jewish passengers were held in fear of their lives.
The horrifying ordeal came to a dramatic end on July 4, when the IDF launched a rescue mission. In what is still considered by many to be the most daring hostage rescue mission of all time, a group of Israeli commandos stormed the complex.
Gross recounted the last few moments before they were rescued, “All we heard were gun shots. I was paralyzed with fear. At the time, the only possible explanation to the insanity was that they were coming to finally end our lives. How could it even enter anyone’s mind that the IDF had made it all the way to distant Entebbe?!”
The rescue that was under way seems totally unbelievable until Shai Gross saw it with his own eyes. “After a few moments, we realized that we were being rescued by the IDF. That dramatic rush from desperation to salvation… that is a joy I will never forget,” he told a rapt audience.
Inspired by the willingness of the soldiers to participate, Shai later decide to volunteer himself – at Shalva, in an effort to mirror what those Israeli soldiers had once done for him and give back to the people of Israel. Gross explained how his experiences had shaped him. “This traumatic experience left it’s mark on me. I was emotionally disabled.”
Shai has moved past the scars of his experience in Entebbe. He married and is the proud father of four children. He named his youngest son Yoni in memory of Yoni Netanyahu, the rescue team’s commander and the older brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was killed in the raid.