And where were YOU?

A new TV documentary highlights ‘ordinary people telling their stories’ of the day – 15 years ago – that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Where Were You When Rabin Was Killed? 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Where Were You When Rabin Was Killed? 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 their belief.”
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 criminal.”
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.