Producing Films in Israel
Producer and expert in film production in Israel,
Sharon Schaveet explains her company’s strengths.
“At Biblical Productions we assist production
companies from all over the world in their pre production
research and identification of just the right people
for interview. Pre production in Israel is our specialty
and we not only see the bigger picture but also make
sure we have an eye for the finer details. Every new
project is an exciting new venture and we relish the
challenge of providing film crews with the best service
Israel has to offer.”
“The types of production and topics covered
by our crews are diverse. I have picked out below
an example of a dramatic documentary we worked on
– the famous Entebbe rescue.”
The Story Unfolds – A Foiled Attack
Nairobi, Kenya, 25th January 1976. Air traffic controllers
at Embakasi Airport awaited El Al flight 535 from
Israel. At the same time, a group of five terrorists
- three Palestinian and two German - made their way
to the airport. They had with them a ‘Sam 7’
ground-to-air missile which they intended using to
bring down the aircraft. In spite of their plans,
the flight landed safely - Kenya’s security
service had caught wind of the plot in the nick of
time, and arrested the terrorists.
As soon as the Israeli government were made aware
of the incident, Mossad, the world-renowned intelligence
service, were dispatched to the scene. At six thirty
the next morning the terrorists were injected with
powerful sedatives, placed in coffins and flown to
Israel on the very airplane they had intended to destroy.
When they awoke, the terrorists found themselves in
Israeli hands, incarcerated in a top security jail.
Their capture was kept secret.
The attempted Nairobi attack was a joint operation
between the People’s Front for the Liberation
of Palestine (PFLP) and the German, Baader Meinhof
terrorist group. It had taken months of training.
When the intended heroes of the mission went missing,
the humiliation was too much for PFLP leader, Wadia
Hadad, to bear. For him, the failure in Nairobi was
not the closing of a chapter but the opening of a
new one. There would not be too long a wait before
his attempt at retribution was carried out.
The Second Attempt
On a cool summer morning, Air France flight 139 took
off from Tel Aviv, bound for Paris, via Athens.
As the plane approached Athens, fifty-eight passengers
were waiting to board, among them four terrorists
- two German and two Palestinian. They were about
to execute a plan that had taken six months to prepare;
this time they believed there would be no failure.
There were no security inspections and nobody was
on duty at the metal detector. The passengers moved
freely into the departure lounge and on to the aircraft.
At noon the flight was airborne once more, with 246
passengers on board. Shortly after take-off, the terrorists
made their move. They took over the passenger cabin
and Wilfried Boese, a member of Baader Meinhof, burst
into the cockpit.
Athens informed Tel Aviv that they had lost radio
contact with flight 139 and feared it might have been
At first it looked like a repeat of an event that
had taken place four years earlier. In May 1972 a
Sabena flight was hijacked and taken to Tel Aviv by
Palestinian terrorists. They had demanded the release
of prisoners from Israeli jails but the Israeli government
had refused and launched a rescue operation.
Dressed as airport technicians, an elite Israeli
commando unit, led by Ehud Barak, who was later to
become the Israeli Prime Minister, took over the plane.
In a matter of seconds, two terrorists were dead,
two were captured and all the passengers were free.
But the hijackers of Air France flight 139 had no
intention of being interrupted; they had a mission
The Hijackers Take Control
Flight 139 contacted air traffic control at Benghazi
airport, requesting to land. The Libyans give their
In Tel Aviv, the hijack of the Air France plane was
confirmed as a terrorist act. Ehud Barak wondered
what could be done but it was clear that nothing was
possible in the short term.
The Israelis thought Libya, a terror-supporting country,
was the final destination for flight 139. They were
taken by surprise when, after seven hours at Benghazi,
having refueled for a long onward flight, the airbus
took off for an unknown destination. Not all the passengers
were on board; Patricia Hyman, a British citizen,
told the terrorists that she was pregnant and bleeding.
They let her go.
It was gradually becoming clear that flight 139 was
heading far away from the Middle East. The pilot,
Bacos, grew nervous. He told the hijackers that they
were running out of fuel. An hour later, its fuel
tanks almost dry, the airbus touched down at Entebbe
After they stopped the engines, a group of Palestinians
arrived to relieve the hijackers.
Events at Entebbe
In the summer of 1976 Uganda was no friend of Israel’s.
Its dictator, Idi Amin, severed all diplomatic relations
when Israel refused to sell him combat aircraft, which
he had planned to use to bomb Kenya and Tanzania.
Shimon Peres was the Israeli Defense Minister at the
time and considered Idi Amin to be wild and unpredictable.
At Entebbe, the hostages had been moved from the
aircraft into the old terminal building. Later that
day Idi Amin arrived and made a speech in favor of
the Palestinians, endorsing their aims. He was at
the height of his power. Only three days earlier he
had dissolved the Ugandan parliament and declared
himself president for life.
The Ugandan dictator said that the hostages would
be safe if Israel complied with the terrorists’
demands. As a show of goodwill he allowed one of them,
Mrs Dora Bloch, who was ill, to be taken to a hospital
In Israel, everything was on the brink of chaos.
The hostages seemed to be far beyond the reach of
their country and it seemed as if the terrorists were
Israel Considers Her Response
Prime Minister Rabin called an emergency meeting of
his cabinet. As they were about to start, they received
the hijackers’ demands; a preliminary list of
terrorists held in Israel, France and Germany, to
be released in exchange for the hostages now held
At last they knew the price. They also knew who was
asking for it; the PFLP.
A deadline had been set for Thursday, July 1 at 2:00pm.
If their demands were not met by then, the terrorists
threatened to kill the hostages.
Prime Minister Rabin asked the IDF Chief-of-Staff,
General Mota Gur, to determine whether he thought
that the hostages could be rescued.
Unlike his fellow ministers, Shimon Peres was convinced
that a rescue operation was the only option. He began
to piece together an image of the Ugandan dictator.
Years earlier, Idi Amin trained in Israel. Peres called
upon the officers who were in charge of him. Peres
invited the chief officer to describe Amin and found
out that Amin’s mother had told him never to
kill Jews, as well as the fact that he wanted to get
the Nobel Peace Prize. One officer in particular,
Colonel Burka Bar Lev, knew him well.
Peres asked him to get in touch with Idi Amin and
start negotiations. Burka Bar Lev told Idi Amin that
the Israelis were ready to negotiate and release prisoners
in exchange for the hostages. He asked for Idi Amin’s
help in solving the crisis. He was promised everything,
from the Nobel Peace Prize to a place in Paradise.
The Government of Israel forwarded the hijackers’
demands to France and Germany but both refused to
release terrorists from their prisons.
Freedom for the Lucky Few
At the Old Terminal a new drama was beginning to
unfold. The German, Wilfried Boese, appeared with
a list in his hand and began to read out the names
of those held hostage. His action brought back uncomfortable
memories from the Holocaust.
Forty seven non-Jewish hostages were allowed to leave
but Captain Bacos and his crew did not go with them.
Bacos later commented, “We discussed it and
agreed to stay.”
The next day the rescue flight containing the non
Jewish passengers arrived in France. The released
hostages disembarked and celebrated in the arms of
Mossad asked the French Government for permission
to question them. The French were fully co-operative
and in the midst of the jubilation, Mossad agents
discreetly gathered information about the hostages
and their surroundings.
The information gathered in Paris was immediately
transmitted to Tel Aviv.
They had verified that the Ugandans were co-operating
with the terrorists and had also learned the layout
of the building.
A Plan Materializes
As they gathered intelligence, Mossad discovered
that part of Entebbe airport was built by an Israeli
construction company, Solel Boneh. The blueprints
were quickly obtained and closely studied. By noon,
intelligence officers and commando leaders were beginning
to assemble a rescue plan.
A lot of ideas were thrown into the air but it was
agreed that the most important factor was maintaining
the element of surprise. If this was achieved, they
felt that whatever plan they chose could succeed.
The various plans were outlined to Prime Minister
Rabin, who was a stickler for detail. If he felt a
plan was viable he would go along with it. If he was
not confident then he would reluctantly negotiate.
To the outside world, Rabin presented a defeated
image. In Cabinet he proposed a resolution to negotiate
with the terrorists. It was passed by a substantial
With news of the Cabinet resolution, and only ninety
minutes left before the deadline, Peres asked Burka
Bar Lev to contact Idi Amin and to plead for an extension.
Amin responded by postponing the ultimatum by three
days, to two o’clock on July 4th.
The Israeli government promoted the notion that they
didn’t have a choice and were about to give
in to the terrorists’ demands.
They wanted to give the terrorists a false sense
of comfort and convince them that they had succeeded.
This plan seemed to be working as, following on from
the deadline extension, the Ugandans informed Captain
Bacos that Israel was ready to negotiate.
Gathering Vital Intelligence
Although they now knew a great deal about Entebbe,
there were still many gaps in their knowledge and
no-one knew if the layout of the airport had changed
in the four years since the Israeli Air Force was
Ehud Barak and Mossad operatives were sent to Kenya.
Mossad launched a brilliant emergency intelligence
gathering operation. Mossad contacted Bruce McKenzie,
a former MI6 operative and a friend of Israel, who
lived in Nairobi. He had his own aircraft and knew
Entebbe well. With McKenzie’s help, a Mossad
pilot flew over the airfield and photographed it.
The pictures he took would prove vital in what was
A Rescue Team is Put Together
Two IDF officers, Brigadier General Dan Shomron,
Commanding Officer of the Paratroops and Lieutenant
Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu, known as “Yoni”
were put in charge of the operation.
Shomron and Netanyahu worked together with the Air
Force on the rescue plan. By the end of the day the
plan was complete; four Hercules aircraft would fly
to Entebbe, take over the airport and bring the hostages
That night they presented the plan to Prime Minister
Rabin and Defense Minister Peres. By midnight, the
pilots and crews had been chosen and notified; all
were hand picked, based on their professional knowledge
and operational skills.
The pictures of Entebbe airport taken from the air
were studied and a full scale model of the terminal
building was built. The commando unit used it for
training, storming the model time and time again until
they had perfected their moves.
Moki Betzer, who had spent time in Uganda in the
past, came up with the brilliant idea of using a Mercedes
and two Land Rovers to ferry the raiding force into
the terminal. No-one would interfere with such a convoy,
which resembled a military convoy.
The Rescue Commences
On Saturday morning, one day before the extended
deadline expired, the Cabinet met to make a final
decision. One hour after the meeting, the four aircraft
were on the runway and ready to strike.
The photos of Entebbe taken by Mossad arrived at
the last minute and were pushed into the pilots’
hands on the tarmac.
On Saturday July 3rd at 13:20 they took off on what
was to be the most daring operation ever undertaken
by Israel - or anybody else since. The four Hercules
jets flew very low, beneath any possible hostile radar.
Unlike many military operations, there was no quick
adrenalin buzz for the team; the flight was long and
At 23:01 the first aircraft touched down at Entebbe.
The Mercedes and the two Land Rovers made their way
quietly down the ramp, carrying the first detachment
of commandos. They drove towards the Old Terminal
building, looking like an ordinary Ugandan officer’s
convoy. But the illusion was not completely successful.
One of the Ugandan soldiers guessed what was going
on, and had to be shot. Once this first shot was fired
the commandos began their mission, storming the terminal
A Dramatic Finale
In fifty seconds the terrorists were dead. Three
of the hostages were also caught in the cross-fire
and killed. But the fighting was not over - Ugandan
soldiers were still firing from the top of the control
tower and one of them hit Yoni Netanyahu. Shortly
after eleven in the evening, Yoni Netanyahu died.
One of the hostages later reported, “We waited
until the soldiers had finished their work. One of
them said, in English, “Get up, we’re
going home.” Vehicles were provided to transport
some of the elderly hostages but I ran to the Hercules.
There were bullets everywhere. I prayed that we wouldn’t
get hit. We went on board and this is when I saw Yoni’s
As the Hercules containing rescued hostages took
off, a group of commandos destroyed all the Ugandan
Air Force Mig jets on the tarmac, preventing pursuit.
These eleven Migs comprised the whole Ugandan Air
Fifty minutes after the first rescue plane had landed,
the hostages were airborne and on their way home.
In contrast to the jubilation from the successful
rescue, Mrs Dora Bloch was still in her hospital bed
in Kampala. Although thought to be safe this was sadly
not the case, as a fuming Amin, seeking revenge, had
One of the rescue team later described his feelings
on board the return journey, “I sat on the plane
and had to pinch myself to show that it’s not
a dream. The action allowed no emotion. The first
time I felt some reaction was when we heard above
Addis Ababa on the BBC World Service that the raid
had succeeded. I realized what we had done.”
On Sunday morning, seven days and three hours after
they took off, the passengers from Air France flight
139 finally returned home to Tel Aviv; to freedom.
This story is so dramatic and has many interesting
facets to it;
- human interest from the perspective of the government,
rescue team, hostages;
- the work of Mossad and the Israeli military;
- the culture and ethics of Israel as a nation, unwilling
to blindly accept the fate of endangered citizens.
A broad range of documentaries can be filmed on location
in Israel. Clips can be compiled using key people
from the story and shot on location. Biblical Productions
can organize your access to such people and places;
enhancing your production, giving you that extra special
edge and really bringing your story to life.
Already established as logistical and industry experts,
we also provide specialist services to clients, including
an ever-growing data bank filled with a range of experts
and historical figures. We work with you to determine
who would interview best – in terms of their
connection to your story, as well as their presentation
skills. We can then negotiate for them to be part
of your production.
Filming in Israel
Biblical Productions is a leading company in the
field of production services, based in Israel. We
cover all areas of film and television production,
including documentaries, feature films, commercials,
music videos and promotional films.
Biblical Productions guides you during your shoot
in Israel - from the pre-production planning to the
post-production wrap. We arrange professional crews,
fixers, permits, HD equipment rental, interviews,
location scouting and more.
Biblical Productions also boasts a large collection
of high-quality archival footage, making it a one-stop
shop for all your production services in Israel. Please
view our client list
‘Biblical Productions: The number once choice
for production services in Israel.'