Black Forest is a documentary on the investigation into the terrorist attack that killed Kristine Luken and left Kay Wilson struggling for her life.
The documentary focuses on how the DNA collected from that attack helped solve the murder of Neta Sorek, who had been killed earlier that year. But guided by directors Hadar Kleinman-Zadok and her long-time partner, Timna Goldstein-Hattab, the lens goes much deeper, revealing the victim’s pain and the police’s anguish that drives them to solve these horrific crimes. Though not the focus of the documentary, the directors wanted to bring to light these two painful aspects of Israeli life that are far too common and so rarely discussed.
The story begins in February 2010 when Sorek, a 53-year-old Israeli woman, was on vacation at the Beit Jimal Monastery near Beit Shemesh, a few miles south of Jerusalem. She went for a walk in the forest and did not return. The police were alerted and the next morning, they found her body in the forest. She had been stabbed to death but heavy rains erased any evidence that might have been found and her murder remained unsolved.
The following December, Wilson, an Israeli citizen originally from Britain, went for a hike in the forest near Beit Shemesh with Luken, a Christian-American friend. Two Arab men, Aiad Fatfata and Kifah Ghanimat, followed them into the forest.
“Please don’t kill us,” Wilson pleaded. One of the terrorists looked her in the eye, put his hand on his heart and declared, “I am good, I not kill.”
“I believed him,” she says.
The two Arabs attacked them with knives. Wilson managed to stab one of them with a pen knife before they stabbed her 13 times.
“I lay bound and gagged, staring at the autumn skies. In those moments, which I believed were to be my last, I looked at the sun obscured by a man’s hand wielding a machete,” she says. “Thirteen times they plunged their machetes into us to the blood-curdling crescendo of ‘Allahu Akbar,’ Kristine screaming ‘Jesus’ and my own whimpering of ‘Shema Israel.’”
Luken was killed in front of Wilson’s eyes. The attackers fled, sure that both women were dead. With her hands tied behind her back, Wilson managed to stagger close to a mile to a parking lot where she was found.
Blood from the attacker, found on Wilson’s sleeve, gave the police one clue that solved both murders. DNA testing proved the blood belonged to Fatfata, who confessed, implicating Ghanimat as well. Ghanimat was convicted of murdering Luken and was sentenced to two life sentences and 60 years in prison. He was also convicted of unlawful entry into Israel, stealing weapons, weapons trading and four counts of attempted murder. Kifah Ghanimat was also convicted of one count of aggravated rape from July 2009.
Black Forest is unique in several ways. For the first time, a documentary reveals the behind-the-scenes workings of a major investigation by the Israeli Police.
“We always search for interesting story,” Goldstein-Hattab said to Breaking Israel News. They decided to do a trilogy based on difficult to solve murders in Israel. “We were focused on the police work, how they used DNA to solve crimes but a Hollywood script would not have been as dramatic as the story we documented.”
The police work was fascinating, hinging on Wilson’s act of unspeakable courage in stabbing her attacker with a tiny knife. Thanks to her bravery, police were able to capture the terrorists, solving Sorek’s murder and preventing the terrorists form striking again.
The directors discovered that murders are never simple, even if they are solved.
“We saw the emotional side of the investigation and how much it touched the police as people, We went to the back rooms. This was unique. We put the spotlight on their emotions, what led them to obsessively search for the criminals and how they deal with victims during and after the investigation. We also discovered a special personal connection between the police and the victims.”
The film showed Lelach, a policewoman, who interrogated Wilson soon after the attack when she was still struggling for her life.
“Lelach had to ask Kay if she had a relationship with the murderer. This was very difficult. After the interrogation, Lelach continued to visit Wilson in the hospital and they are still close friends to this day,” Goldstein-Hattab said.
Goldstein-Hattab has a personal connection with this experience of living with trauma. Her maternal grandfather, a kibbutznik and playwright who spoke fluent Arabic and actively worked for peace with the Arabs, was killed in a terrorist attack in 1942.
“As a director, you never know how you get to certain stories, but I think this trauma of my own personal story affected me, leading me to this story,” Goldstein-Hattab said. “Our motivations were emotional, not political. Israelis live at high risk. So many Israelis identified with Kay WIlson. So many Israelis, even in the cities, feel threatened. We are a nation that lives in trauma everyday. Israelis are used to living this and don’t speak about it. We hide it from others and even from ourselves. We wanted to bring this out, to show this, to talk about this so we can begin to heal.”
Of course, this pain has a distinctly nationalistic aspect. When the police bring the suspect to the scene of the attack in the forest, they ask him why he chose the location.
“We came to kill Jews,” they said simply.
In fact, this theme is unavoidable when reporting these crimes.
“Kristine told them that she wasn’t Jewish, but they didn’t believe her,” Wilson said. “My devout Christian friend was killed because they thought she was a Jew.”
Kay Wilson still suffers from the wounds she suffered in the attack, physical and emotional, but she is dedicated to healing and helping others heal. As a result of the role she played in solving the murder of Neta Sorek, Kay became close friends with Neta’s mother, Dina.
“We are related by blood if not by choice,” Wilson said.
Wilson is a public speaker, speaking out against terrorism, and has addressed the United Nations. Her message is one of healing and not of hate.
She has tried to convince the British government to stop giving money to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA stops paying stipends to terrorists.
“Terrorists are entitled to a Palestinian Authority monthly murder stipend ten times what the Israeli National Insurance awards me as a disability allowance,” she says.”Since my attack, my would-be murderers have been paid thousands of dollars.”
Black Forest premiered in Hebrew on Israeli television six months ago as one of the highest rated movies in the network’s history.The movie will make its English premiere on Monday, July 9, at Beit Avi Chai in association with IsraelB.