Waltz with Ben-Gurion

Animators of ‘Waltz with Bashir’ create short illustrated biography of Israel’s first prime minister, describing main events in his life.

David Ben Gurion animation (photo credit: Courtesy of 900m Productions)
David Ben Gurion animation
(photo credit: Courtesy of 900m Productions)
‘It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested.” – David Ben-Gurion. David Ben-Gurion’s desert home in Sde Boker remains exactly as he left it – but now it’s gotten a new modern twist. A new 12- minute film, designed by the same animators as the acclaimed film Waltz with Bashir, is giving visitors a creative window into the life of Israel’s first prime minister.
“It’s a movie that brings people into the life of Ben-Gurion, instead of them just reading a sign or listening to a guide,” said Iri Kassel, associate director of the Ben Gurion Heritage Institute. The institute received funding from the Jewish Community of Ottawa on the occasion of the 2010 Negev dinner in honor of Sara Vered, and thought hard about the best way to use it.
“We noticed a problem with youth – we were having a hard time connecting them to the site and to the story. We really wanted something modern to improve the exhibit,” explained Miri Palmach, the director of the Ben Gurion’s Home in the Desert Site. “[So we decided], ‘Let’s introduce people to Ben-Gurion.’ It had to be something unforgettable.”
“There isn’t enough video footage of Ben Gurion to make a movie out of it,” said Kassel. “It was a tough decision – what kind of movie do we want to make?”
They had many reservations about an animated film.
“Animation can easily create characters that are absurd,” said Palmach, “and Ben- Gurion is very easy to caricature.”
After receiving several proposals, Kassel and Palmach settled on the one from 900m Productions, which is based in Mitzpe Ramon.
Palmach said that they were attracted by the fact that, like Ben-Gurion, the owners of 900m Productions had forsaken Tel Aviv in order to live in the Negev, but said that that wasn’t why they were chosen for the project.
“We chose them because of their idea and professionalism,” she said. “They’re talented and they’re in the Negev – they’re living Ben- Gurion’s vision.”
Ezri Keidar and Nadav Ben-Israel are the co-founders of 900m Productions, which calls itself “a pioneering, independent center of cinematic creation in the Negev desert.” The company takes its name from the city’s elevation.
“We see ourselves as the little Ben-Gurions of the film industry,” said Keidar.
“In the Negev, nobody is doing what we are... we saw an opening for it.”
He said that they were attracted to the film for its challenge, and saw its potential to be a cornerstone project.
“We were working on the movie for six or seven months,” he said. “We finished the research and the script in the first month of work. It was very difficult to decide what to put in... we decided to focus on Ben-Gurion’s connection to the Negev – what he saw in it, and his decision to come when he wasn’t really so young anymore.”
IN THE film, Ben Gurion Hosting, the white-haired Negev pioneer invites viewers into his home. Its entire script comes from Ben-Gurion’s writings and journals, and covers all of the major milestones of his life – from his childhood in Czarist Russia to his aliya to Israel to the many roles that he played in the building of the state, to his eventual settlement in Sde Boker in 1953.
Noted Israeli actor Tuvia Tzafir is the voice of Ben-Gurion in the movie, and he told Channel 10 that he also feels a personal connection.
“He led me as a youth, basically up until my army service, as Israel’s first prime minister... I’ve also imitated him many times throughout my career.”
The film opened in Sde Boker two months ago, with two of the gazebos along the pathway leading up to Ben- Gurion’s desert home converted into viewing spaces. Visitors can watch the film in English or Hebrew.
“It’s surpassed our expectations – the film is mainly directed towards youth, but we’ve seen 70- and 80-year-old tourists getting excited about it,” said Palmach.
“Every audience takes something different from the film.”
She added that it also helps guests to get more out of their visit.

“It helps people to understand his hut and where they are – it connects them to it even before they come in. It enlightens the whole visit,” she said. Some 800,000 people visit the site each year.
“He asked that his home remain as it was, and that it be opened to the public.
It serves as an example, and shows something that’s missing from many of today’s leaders – that type of modesty, which is incredibly powerful.”
According to Palmach, there is no doubt as to the continuing significance of Ben- Gurion and his story.
“Ben-Gurion is always relevant. Every question that is asked today, you can go back to the time of Ben-Gurion and see what he did with the same issue. You can see him in every issue of today... he’s relevant now just as much as he was then.”