Like many Israelis, Dani Inbar was at home watching TV on the night of November 4, 1995.
The viewing choices that evening included the films Crocodile Dundee and Eskimo Limon or sports enthusiast Inbar’s selection, a football match.
When viewers began to see the notice on the screens saying, “A special news bulletin will be broadcast shortly,” nobody would have dreamt that the topic of the report would be that prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated.
“This is one of my points going into the movie. I was home doing nothing, like an ordinary guy,” said filmmaker Inbar last week. “That’s what I was looking for – ordinary people telling their stories from that day. “ Inbar was describing his latest Reshet documentary Where Were You When Rabin Was Killed?
which will be aired on Channel 2 on the eve of the memorial day for Rabin, on Tuesday night at 10:15. Focusing on every day people, as well as celebrities like Haim Yavin and Shaike Levy from the Gashash Hahiver trio, Inbar discovered stories that from different angles reflect the trauma that blanketed the country that night and the fractures in society that emerged as a result.
“Out of those stories, I tried to create a mosaic of what was happening then and what is happening now in Israeli society,” said Inbar.
A long-time staple on the local sports scene as host of the Sports Channel show One on One, Inbar began branching out into filmmaking and directing a few years ago, emerging as director for TV’s Ovdah with Ilana Dayan and Ulpan Shishi with Yair Lapid. Reshet signed him to produce a series of documentaries, including wellreceived films on diverse topics such as Arkady Gaydamak, soccer stars Eyal Bercovic and Yossi Benayoun, criminal lawyers and mizrahi music.
Inbar loved the idea of a film about Rabin’s assassination but predicated it on the condition that the standard cliches be put to rests. “We don’t use ‘Shir Le’shalom’ in the film,” he said.
Instead, Reshet published a public announcement asking people for interesting stories about what they went through the night of the assassination and how it affected their lives.
“I was a little skeptical because, 15 years later, I thought, ‘Will people remember? Will they care? Will they cooperate?’” recalled Inbar. “It was amazing – we got thousands of people calling us, leaving messages, crying on the phone. And that turned out to be the heart and bones of the movie.”
Inbar and his staff listened to all the messages and whittled them down to the most compelling stories and personalities.
Those stories ended up molding the theme and timeline of the film, which begins in 1981.
“We chose that date because one of the people who contacted us was named
Hanuka, who left a message saying, ‘I started all this balagan.’ I
thought, ‘What’s he talking about?’ I called him, and it turned out it
was true,” said Inbar.
“In 1981, Shimon Peres was running for prime minister and visited Rosh
Ha’ayin, where Hanuka attempted to physically attack him. It was the
first instance I can recall of political violence in Israel. Hanuka told
us that when Rabin was shot, he regretfully said to himself, ‘Look what
I started. It was like a tree I planted, and look where the branches
have grown.’” The film then moves chronologically to a month before the
murder, a week before, the day of, and the15 years that have passed.
Some people, like Hanuka, are part of the bigger theme of the film of
how the country has changed, and some, according to Inbar, are “just
people who had a strange or interesting story, something that will
captivate an audience for a few minutes,” he said.
“For example, we found three women who were in labor that evening, and
they got together and told their stories. One heard shouting and
commotion in the hospital, and it caused her water to break. Another
said she was in the delivery room, and the nurses asked her if they
could bring a radio in with them, and they and the doctor were crying.
Then we see the three children who were born, now 15 years old, alive
and kicking. It keeps a perspective on what was then and what is now.”
WHERE THE country is now plays an important role in the film and, according to Inbar, it’s not a good place.
“Shaike Levy makes a joke in the film, and it’s typically Israeli: ‘The situation got worse, for the better,’” Inbar recounted.
“I said I didn’t want to use cliches, but the problem is that the
biggest cliché is also the saddest truth of what is going on today – 15
years later, the situation is worse.
That’s what people talk about in the second half of the film – the loss
of hope, the feeling of no light is at the end of the tunnel.
“I didn’t want to talk about politics in the film, but the basic thing
is does Israel want peace? Is Israel willing to pay the price? We
discovered there are two thoughts – the side that doesn’t want do
anything for peace; and the Left, who are either desperate or have lost
Inbar found plenty of people on both sides of the political spectrum to
share their views, and he doesn’t hide the fact that those with the most
outrageous viewpoints ended up being included in the film.
“This is TV; and on TV, you usually go to the extremes. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but that’s what’s done,” he said.
“It wasn’t very hard for us to find the Right extremists.
They left us messages that are in the movie – obscenities, statements
praising Yigal Amir, messages like ‘ I wish more Left wingers got
murdered.’ I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but I was stunned that they
actually left their messages and names loud and clear. It’s almost
Interspersed with the rants from Amir supporters and the post-Zionist
pessimism of former peace idealists, Inbar also included a fair share of
well-known Israelis, most dovish, recalling the fateful evening and its
ramifications. He said he didn’t set out to find celebrities and only
used them because they had an important story to tell.
“We spoke to Sivan Rahav Meir, a journalist with Channel 2, who a month
before the murder, as a 15- year-old, appeared on Dan Shilon’s Circles
program with Rabin. She got to ask him questions. When Rabin was
murdered, she began the process of probing her Judaism. She was totally
secular but said, ‘This is a Jew who killed a Jew – I have to understand
my Judaism and see where this is coming from.’ She started studying and
today, she’s very religious.,” said Inbar.
“We also spoke with Ofer Pines Paz, who was very close to Rabin and who
got tired of politics and quit; and to Ahinoam Nini, who after the
murder became very outspoken about believing in a two-state solution and
lost much of her audience in Israel and even got her life threatened.”
Left-wing actor Rami Heuberger was picked because of a short film he
made in 2008 for the Cameri Five portraying Yigal Amir in 2030, sitting
poolside with a cocktail, bragging how he was released from jail and is
now a hero to the Right. That skit ties into the disturbing overlying
message Inbar discovered while researching and making Where Were You When Rabin Was Killed?
“I think the clear and sad outcome which many people in the movie
convey is that Yigal Amir won. Simple as that. And you can see it in
black and white. The peace process was killed, and Yigal Amir is sitting
in jail now smiling. That’s the saddest thing of all,” said Inbar.