The Six-Day War in 1967 was a brilliant military victory, a turning point in Israel’s history and if the U.S. had scored a similar triumph, there would have been half a dozen movies with John Wayne single-handedly wiping out the Arab armies.
Yet, the Israeli film industry has never made a feature movie on this dramatic event, but now two American producers have come 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.
Two New York lawyers are the driving force behind the project. One is Joseph Schick, an ardent history buff, who started the ball rolling 18 months ago after devouring Rabinovich’s eyewitness account, anchored in interviews with 300 participants.
Schick enlisted fellow Columbia Law School graduate Jacob Septimus, who has produced and directed a number of TV shows and documentaries for national networks.
Together, Schick and Septimus 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.
He recently completed a screenplay about Israeli spy Eli Cohen for the upcoming movie “Alone in Damascus,” and has also finished the script for the action-thriller “Run from the Devil,” to be produced by Oasis Media Group.
During a visit to my home, Septimus and Geller discussed the “Jerusalem ‘67” movie, with Schick adding his observations in a phone call from New York.
Schick noted that in a sense the city of Jerusalem itself 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.
The film will be in English, with an international cast. Although leading historical figures, like 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,” Geller added.
At this point in time, Geller has finished his first draft of the screenplay. No director or actors have been selected, but the film will be shot entirely in Israel.
The anticipated budget of the movie is around $5 million, a hefty sum in Israel though modest by Hollywood standards.
The two producers expect to raise one-third of the sum from Jewish individuals and organizations in the United States, one-third from Israel sources, and one-third from production companies.
Actor Mel Gibson, not otherwise noted for his philo-Semitism but who is reportedly interested on helming a film on the ancient Maccabees, may want to invest in the project, Septimus suggested.
If all goes well, “Jerusalem ‘67” will be released for public viewing in 2013, or possibly 2014.
“We will not make a hasbara, or propaganda, film,” Schick emphasized, “but it will favor the Israeli perspective.”