A howling good time

Moshe Alpert’s "A Wolf’s Tale" is an extraordinary look at the life of a wolf in the Galilee.

Moshe Alpert, director of A Wolf’s Tale’ 370 (photo credit: Courtesy PR)
Moshe Alpert, director of A Wolf’s Tale’ 370
(photo credit: Courtesy PR)
Lots of people have unusual ringtones, but Moshe Alpert, the director of the new Israeli nature movie A Wolf’s Tale, is probably the only one who has a wolf’s howl programmed into his cellphone.
The film, which is told from the point of view of a wolf living in the Golan Heights, is his follow-up to the immensely successful documentary Land of Genesis, which was about several species of animals throughout Israel.
“All the animals in Land of Genesis had interesting stories... I wanted to do a movie from the about the point of view of the animals, to show how the people who live in this land look to them,” says Alpert, one of Israel’s most distinguished cinematographers.
“Through the story of the wolves we get a view of ourselves, and also a look into their lives. They have feelings and emotions no less than people. We are very similar to them and there is no reason for us to be their enemies.”
Alpert is passionate about this wish to restore peace among the species, and he is more than simply an observer of nature. In order to capture extraordinary footage of the wolves, including births, hunting, and other important moments in their lives, Alpert actually adopted a pair of wolves.
“The wolves were born in captivity. Their parents were used for research on how to help create coexistence between the farmers and wolves in the Golan Heights. The nature authority searched for ways that the humans could live peacefully alongside wolves,” he explains.
“This pair was born in the Haifa Zoo. I wanted to raise them. I knew if we used these cubs, we could tell an intimate story of wolves. I took these cubs when they were still blind. They grew up in my family. I nursed them. They never got terrified by me or the camera operators from my company [Afikim Productions].”
The wolf that is the “star” of the movie “was with me for 14 years, from when he was a cub till he died,” says Alpert, clearly still filled with affection for this creature he has immortalized on film and whose life he shared for so long.
“Until the age of three months the pair of wolf cubs lived in my house. Then I built them a mini nature reserve in Kibbutz Afikim [where he was born and where he still lives]. When I was filming, I would be with them all day,” he says.
They had cubs and some of these are still alive.
“They are about 14, which is old for wolves. They are retired.... When I decided to do this I didn’t know what it would involve. This life connected me to them. It’s like being responsible for little children.”
His real children grew up and “left the nest some time ago. But the wolves, they didn’t. They were born for freedom and when I took them from the Nature Authority, I promised to take care of them. I did this work with great love and it influenced me and my family.”
Although he grew up, “like everybody, with the image of the big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf,” Alpert is now deeply concerned about the welfare of wolves in nature.
“They are a protected species, but it’s an ancient conflict, the conflict between cattle ranchers and wolves.
We can’t make them vegetarian,” he notes, explaining that farmers are allowed to kill wolves that attack their herds.
“But the wolves are brilliant creatures, even more sensitive than we are are. They only want to survive,” he says. “They want to live and found a new generation.
They mate for life and the offspring stay to help their parents.”
Because of an explosion in the deer population in recent years, some hunting of deer has been allowed, which can have dire consequences for wolves, Alpert feels.
“Every living creature knows his place in the food chain. But when people come and cut a thread in the food chain, then there is a chain reaction.”
Alpert’s dream is that A Wolf’s Tale will help people “understand that wildlife in general and wolves in particular have lives just like us. They live are very sensitive to the changes humans make in their environment, on purpose or inadvertently. My dream is that all human settlements take into account into the impact on the land and the animals.”
He has been curious about wildlife since he saw Tarzan when he was a child. His father was one of the founders of Kibbutz Afikim and Alpert grew up in the fields where his father worked. He remembers watching the migration of the birds over the kibbutz.
When he got out of the army, he went back to the kibbutz and became a news photographer, but photographing nature was always a passion.
“After too many years of photographing terror, I had had too many wars. To keep my sanity, I needed to do something else. And I hope people in Israel and all over the world will see this film and come away from it filled with a greater understanding of these extraordinary creatures.”