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 drama 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, 1967” 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 last year 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 won 24 international awards and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign student film of 2008.
In “Jerusalem ’67,” Schick said, the city of Jerusalem will, in a sense, 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.”
“Jerusalem ’67,” which will be in English and shot entirely in Israel, has no cast or director yet. The anticipated budget is approximately $5 million — a hefty sum in Israel, though modest by Hollywood standards.
Schick and Septimus hope 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” could be released in 2013 or 2014.
“We will not make a hasbara, or propaganda, film,” Schick emphasized, “but it will be told from an Israeli perspective.”