It was in fact the moment when Michal Zohar’s boyfriend opened the surprise gift that she had prepared for his birthday that he understood that she wasn’t coming back. Barak Drori, the creator of the memorial clip, describes how he tried to express the feeling of loss through the eyes of her boyfriend.
In memory of Michal Zohar - 1st of Heshvan 5751 (October 20, 1990) – 5th of Kislev 5771 (November 11, 2010)
A little before Eitan’s 20th birthday, his girlfriend Michal asked him what he wants as a present. “Nothing,” he told her. “Really, I have everything; I have you and that’s enough.” Michal persevered, “Nonetheless, you must want something. Think hard.” “OK,” he answered with a smile. “I want one thousand kisses. But really, OK? Don’t you dare cheat.”
“When I heard that Michal had been injured, I immediately left the army. It was already late and there was a long way to go,” Eitan recounts. “By the time I got there, she was already gone. I didn’t even manage to see her in the hospital.” Eitan went straight to the family who were already in mourning. “I saw Russian people there and I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “I sat down next to Michal’s mother and hugged her and then she said that Michal had prepared something for my birthday. ‘I think you must be mistaken’, I told her. ‘What I asked for I will never get.’ But she went out and came back with a beautiful decorated box. I didn’t know what could be in it. I opened it and saw that it was full of kisses made of rubber. That was the moment that I understood that this is it. I suddenly understood and I wept.”
What her family remembers about Michal more than anything else is her smile. She is described as spreading happiness and joy – always smiling, always with an encouraging word. During her free time, she went to dance groups and that filled her days. In her practical matriculation exam in dance, she created a dance to the sounds of the song “I got to love” by Ivri Lider and in the theoretical exam she explained her choice of choreography: “The love that overflows inside me – for my family, my friends, for dance…the emotion that accompanies my gratitude for everything I have, that is always in me and enriches me even when I am alone, without any dependence on what surrounds me.”
Michal Zohar z"l
Michal became a prominent dancer: she was part of the Misgav dance group and even traveled with the group to Brazil to appear before the Jewish communities there and to travel around. On Thursday, November 11th, 2010, on her way home from her army service, and with a wish in her heart to return to Misgav and to start dancing again after a year of interruption, a truck driver intentionally ran her over at a bus stop near the Akko train station, which was crowded with people. Michal, who was waiting at the stop, was critically injured. For many hours, the physicians fought to save her but at midnight she died of her injuries.
Michal Zohar z”l was killed on her way back home from the army when a truck driver purposely rammed into the bus stop where she was standing. Her mother Emma describes her memories of Michal and her final days.
A Rare Smile
Barak Drori, creator of the memorial clip: I became aware of the love story between Michal and Eitan by chance and it took me some time to understand the focus of my attraction to it. In learning about the story’s background, I found myself diving deeper and deeper into Michal’s stories and the memories of her life. And like everyone who knew her, I was captivated.
A young girl with a rare smile – so full of life that it is hard to believe that her life was taken. It was also my bad luck to encounter premature death not long ago. From within my personal bereavement and my familiarity with Michal, I decided to focus on a journey toward the bad news – one that few could really understand.
By way of the character of Eitan, who was on his way to the hospital where he would be told of Michal’s critical injuries, we learn about her, we fall in love with her, we miss her and we sway between faith and despair. And maybe we even understand that in the end the person that we lost hasn’t really left us, to the same extent that essentially we can never get over our loss. We learn to live close to the loss and even a person that has left us remains parallel to us – as a living and breathing memory.
When I learned more about Michal, I found out that she was a dancer. That was a breakthrough in how I would approach the clip. The swan song, Michal’s last dance, will be expressed in Eitan’s steps in the stairwell before receiving the news in the hospital corridor.
Elinor Indick, a choreographer, dancer and good friend, helped to plan the dance and served as a dancer so that I could learn the moves. Yonatan Alblek, a gifted composer and friend, was asked to create original music that would only be for Michal’s memory segments. And Uri Inks, the clip’s art director, was responsible for the artistic look. I chose to do the clip using classic, flowing, outline animation, not only in order to convey an unstable and fearful mental situation, but also to expand the borders of animation and to create more options, particularly when memory and dance come together.