U.S. Filmmakers Plan Documentary on Ma'alot Massacre

Two Americans who arrived in Israel a few days ago to produce a documentary on the 1974 terrorist massacre in Ma'alot want to do a feature film focusing on the incident.

On May 15, 1974, a cell from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine infiltrated into Israel from Lebanon. The members entered an apartment in Ma'alot, killing the Cohens and their son, age 4, and then stormed the town's Netiv Meir school. They took 105 students and 10 teachers hostage, who were from a religious high school in Safed and who were staying at Netiv Meir during a class trip. The terrorists demanded the release of 20 prisoners being held in Israel.

Before being killed in the Israel Defense Forces rescue mission, the terrorists killed 22 students and three of their adult escorts. The massacre shocked the country, mainly because of the tragic results of the rescue attempt.

The producers (who are directing and shooting their documentary) are Brendan Assanti, 20, who is from a Jewish family in Los Angeles, and Kevin Dutoit, also from L.A. They admitted to Haaretz that they have not planned the production carefully, and that the film does not yet have a name.

Assanti says the idea for the movie began a year ago during a conversation with the mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshiha, Shlomo Buhbut, who is a distant relative of his father. Assanti and Dutoit researched the massacre extensively over the past year. Assanti says they made use of many sources and in the end decided not only to document the events from the perspective of the witnesses but also to employ the point of view of current students at the school, including their thoughts about the incident and what can be done to prevent similar occurrences.

Yesterday Assanti and Dutoit filmed at Netiv Meir school, including inside the library, which contains photographs of the victims and archival footage on the massacre as well as a memorial. The filmmakers plan to meet with relatives of victims and with survivors and witnesses in the coming days.

Shimon Tayeb, the principal of the school, was excited about the filming: "These two young men got our full cooperation. We in Ma'alot live and remember what happened, but abroad I don't think anyone remembers the incident.

Assanti and Dutoit also want to get across the other side of the story. "We'll go to Jerusalem and talk to Palestinians," Dutoit said. "We know we have a good story here, but it has to be treated correctly," he said.