Arts and Culture | Israel

New Yorkers producing film on Israel’s Six-Day War victory

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Six-Day War in 1967 was a brilliant military victory, a turning point in Israel’s history. Similar glory by Americans on the battlefield no doubt would have led to the production of a half-dozen films with John Wayne single-handedly wiping out the Arab armies.

Yet the Israeli film industry has never made a feature on the ’67 war. Now two American producers are coming forward to remedy the omission.

Their film, tentatively titled “Jerusalem ’67,” is based on the authoritative book “The Battle for Jerusalem, June 5-7” by veteran Jerusalem Post reporter Abraham Rabinovich, who left the United States to cover the war.

The New York lawyers driving the project are Joseph Schick, an ardent history buff, and Jacob Septimus, who has produced and directed a number of TV shows and documentaries for national networks.

Schick started the ball rolling a year-and-a-half ago after devouring Rabinovich’s eyewitness account anchored in interviews with 300 participants. He then enlisted Septimus, a fellow Columbia Law School graduate.

Together they flew to Israel, arrived at a deal to buy the film rights to the book and visited some of the main sites of the 1967 war.

After interviewing a number of scriptwriters, they chose the English and Hebrew bilingual Lior Geller, 32, raised in New Jersey and a graduate of the Tel Aviv University film school. For his graduate project, Geller wrote and directed “Roads,” set in a drug-infested Arab neighborhood of Lod. The short student film has won 24 international awards, including an Oscar nomination.

On a visit to a reporter’s home, Septimus and Geller talked about the “Jerusalem ‘67” movie, and Schick added his observations in a phone call from New York.

Schick said that in a sense, the city of Jerusalem will be the protagonist, with the capital’s mood chronicled from one month before the outbreak of fighting to its aftermath until the end of the year.

Although leading historical figures such as Israeli generals Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek will be portrayed, the emphasis will on the action and attitudes of ordinary soldiers and citizens, Septimus said.

“Our characters will be based on real people, including an attractive female ambulance driver,” added Geller, who recently completed a screenplay about Israeli spy Eli Cohen for the upcoming movie “Alone in Damascus,” and also has finished the script for the thriller “Run from the Devil,” to be produced by the Oasis Media Group.

“Jerusalem ‘67,” which will be in English and shot entirely in Israel, will feature an international cast, though no cast members have been selected; nor has a director. The anticipated budget is approximately $5 million — a hefty sum in Israel, though modest by Hollywood standards.

Schick and Septimus expect to raise one-third of the money from Jewish individuals and organizations in the United States, one-third from Israeli sources and one-third from production companies.

If all goes well, “Jerusalem ‘67” will be released in 2013 or possibly 2014.

“We will not make a hasbara, or propaganda, film,” Schick emphasized, “but it will be told from an Israeli perspective.”