ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Nir Oz high schoolers made prescient short film about abduction months before Oct. 7

Aya Atzili, whose parents were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, says movie was meant to be ‘imaginary,’ group ‘laughed about it’; students vow to return, live in community

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

From left to right: Yahli Chen, Noga Peleg, Aya Atzilia, and Leah Winkler, Nofei Habsor students who directed the short film "The Kidnapping," in a Channel 12 report, November 29, 2023. (Channel 12 news: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
From left to right: Yahli Chen, Noga Peleg, Aya Atzilia, and Leah Winkler, Nofei Habsor students who directed the short film "The Kidnapping," in a Channel 12 report, November 29, 2023. (Channel 12 news: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A group of high school students from Kibbutz Nir Oz directed a short film half a year ago about a teenager from their community who is kidnapped by Hamas terrorists — having no idea that the movie would end up being tragically prophetic.

The four teens, who attended the Nofei Habsor school and are residents of the kibbutz devastated by terrorists on October 7, told Channel 12 Wednesday that their goal was to make a comedy film for their class, and at the time, they felt no fear that any incident of the like could take place.

“It was the most imaginary thing in the world,” said Aya Atzili, who filmed the movie. “We wrote it and laughed about it.”

In Nir Oz alone, 38 people were killed and 75 were abducted during the massacre.

Residents have been living since then at a hotel near the Dead Sea but plan to temporarily move to a neighborhood of the southern city of Kiryat Gat until the war ends and their kibbutz is rehabilitated.

Atzili was away for the weekend on October 7, when her parents Aviv and Liat were kidnapped, her home burned down, and her dog killed by terrorists who invaded Nir Oz. By chance, she plays the mother of the teen who is kidnapped in the movie.

“Not for a moment did we think it would happen. We were in another world,” said Noga Peleg, the film’s producer. “We wanted to do a stoner comedy, like a search for some kind of treasure.”

“And so we said wait, we are here in this area, it would be classic to do something about the area,” said Leah Winkler, who directed the film, adding that the group decided to go with the idea of a kidnapping.

“The Kidnapping” opens with shots of pastoral shots of the kibbutz. Then, it cuts to a teen, played by student Yahli Chen who, while riding his bike to visit his friends, is captured by terrorists who drive up in a car and take him to a shed.

The students finished editing the film in May and won second prize in the school’s competition.

“They prepare you for four terrorists breaking through the border fence, not inside the community,” said Chen. He recalled that a friend told him weeks after the October 7 massacre: “You predicted the future.”

Winkler said she was discussing the class with someone recently, and showed him the movie, who said he was “in shock” after seeing it.

In the film, the friends of the hostage have no idea what happened to him, concerned that he hasn’t answered his phone for two hours.

The film ends when the hostage tries to flee the terrorists, is shot dead, and then wakes up in his home. In the end, the entire experience was a dream.

Liat Atzili, who plays the mother of the abductee in the short film “The Kidnapping,” made by Nofei Habsor school students. (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Now it gives me a bit of hope. Maybe we will wake up from the dream, from this nightmare,” Peleg said.

Despite the trauma the group has endured, the four were determined to return to their kibbutz to live.

Even after the events of October 7, the group repeated the saying that the Gaza border region is “90 percent heaven, 10% hell,” where families enjoy quiet, communal life, and traveling on weekends and holidays in peaceful, scenic nature.

“I want to raise my kids here. I want them to have the same childhood I had. They will be here,” Winkler said.

“Imagine how amazing this place must be for people to confidently say, we want to return,” Atzili added.

Dozens of communities, Nir Oz among them, were forced to evacuate due to the war, which began on October 7 when hordes of Hamas terrorists from Gaza invaded Israel, massacring some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and abducting at least 240 men, women, and children, many of whom are still being held captive in Gaza.

The attack came under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli population centers. Israel has responded with a military campaign and vowed to eradicate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007. An ongoing truce deal has led to the release of dozens of hostages.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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