Israeli documentary revisits horrific terror attack

I know these were different times, but it is strange to know that the government was aware enough to promise them psychological treatment, but not caring enough to follow up on the promise.

 ‘SPY/MASTER’ (photo credit: HBO/Courtesy Next TV and Hot)
(photo credit: HBO/Courtesy Next TV and Hot)

Several fascinating documentaries will be broadcast on television this September, starting on Hot 8 on September 3 at 9:15 p.m. with A Haunted Home, which tells the story of a horrific terrorist attack in Kiryat Shmona.

Directed by Lisa Peretz, who lived in Kiryat Shmona as a child, and Robby Elmaliah, it looks at the attack, in which 18 people were killed, nearly half of them children, during the Passover holiday in 1974.

One morning in April, three Arab terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine managed to cross the border into Israel and they headed for Kiryat Shmona. They approached a school that turned out to be empty because of the holiday and entered two buildings on Yehuda Halevi Street, where they went from apartment to apartment, killing 15 residents and the gardener. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed as they fought the terrorists.

This attack is rarely mentioned today, and some of the survivors interviewed suggest that the apparent lack of interest in preserving the memory of this incident is because the victims were mostly poor Mizrahim (descendants of local Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa) who lived in an out-of-the-way location. Another explanation is that the survivors – who managed through resourcefulness and sheer luck to evade the killers – were simply too traumatized to speak publicly about the attack. Virtually all the survivors left the town, sparking an exodus in which about 40% of the residents moved elsewhere. Several of those interviewed for the film said they had never been back to their hometown.

A Haunted Home is a difficult movie to watch, because it’s just so sad to watch the survivors struggle with their grief, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to spend an hour with them. It’s understandable that many are outraged that special forces did not enter the building earlier, although it is clear that the bulk of the killings were carried out with chilling speed.

 ‘A HAUNTED HOME’  (credit: Courtesy Hot 8)
‘A HAUNTED HOME’ (credit: Courtesy Hot 8)

The complex aftermath of the attack is also part of the story, and it may shock you to hear two of the child survivors recall that no one at their schools welcomed them back or tried to ease their pain, but that everyone acted as if nothing had happened.

I know these were different times, but it is strange to know that the government was aware enough to promise them psychological treatment, but not caring enough to follow up on the promise, and a psychologist did not arrive for four years.

The documentary is well made, mixing news footage of the events – including a clip of defense minister Moshe Dayan visiting the site of the attack – with animation representing the attack and testimonies of the survivors, which are the most moving part of the film. It tries to conflate the Katyusha rocket attacks from Lebanon in the ’80s with the earlier terrorist attack, even showing a clip of Peretz, one of the codirectors, as a child, talking about how the Katyushas made her want to leave Kiryat Shmona. But what will stay with you are the faces of those who lived through the attack as they speak.

What else is coming up on Israeli TV?

OTHER DOCUMENTARIES coming up later in September include Rafael Balalu’s The Spy Family, which was shown this summer at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It tells the story of an Egyptian family recruited by Israeli intelligence after the Six Day War and how some of the family managed to escape to Israel, and it will be shown starting September 20 on YesDocu.

If you’d like to see a dramatic series about spies, check out Spy/Master, which is already available on Hot VOD and will begin running on Hot HBO on August 27 at 10 p.m. It’s a twisty, Cold War-era thriller about Romanian, American, and Russian spies. Its hero is Victor Godeanu (Alec Secareanu) a fictional character who is the intelligence chief and trusted associate of former Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu (Claudiu Bleont). As Ceausescu gets increasingly paranoid, Godeanu weighs his options and tries to defect to the US on a trip to West Germany. But his family is still in Romania, and he is working other schemes as he tries to stay one step ahead of all the various spies pursuing him. Parker Sawyers plays a US agent who weighs whether he can trust Victor.

Spy/Master is intelligent and enjoyable, but it also introduces a great deal of information and characters rather quickly, and you have to be in the mood to pay close attention if you want to get anything out of it.

If a spy series seems too taxing in these last, very hot summer weeks, you might want to try Red, White & Royal Blue on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a very light rom-com about Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the US president (Uma Thurman), and how he falls for the seemingly stuck-up Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), a British prince.

If you’ve seen the posters or promos, you know that one big scene involves a huge wedding cake falling on top of the two tuxedo-clad young men, and that gives you an idea of the tone of it. Everything is over-the-top, and yet isn’t a prince coming out of the closet likely in the royal family’s future?