Living the Dream- In A Wheelchair

More than three years have passed since the murder in Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar, where two guests of the gay and lesbian center were killed and many were injured. The shooter still hasn’t been found, which is very disturbing – but the issue has not been forgotten. Occasionally it rises into the public agenda, and recently has reached as far as the glamorous Hollywood, thanks to a documentary by three high school graduates from Ramat Hasharon.

Adia Cohen (director and producer), Reut Meir (editor) and Hod Bracha (cinematographer) are the creators of the documentary “Never Stop Walking” which follows Yonatan Box, one of the boys who was seriously injured in the incident. It accompanies him in his rehabilitation from sitting in a wheelchair through following his dream to become a model and actor. The 15 minute-long-film was submitted as part of the finals in Mass Communication, and since then has already won a number of festivals, including Best Documentary in the International Student Film Festival in Hollywood last month, which is considered “the youth Oscars.”

Yonatan Box was 15 when he arrived for an LGBT youth activity at the Bar Noar with his friend Liz Torbishi. Unfortunately, Liz (and the guide Nir Katz) were killed by the masked man who broke into the place. The three young filmmakers came to know who Yonatan was after a meeting with TV researcher Keren Mualem, who works at the famous TV investigation show “Uvda”. “We read online about the subject and decided to make a film about the murder at BarNoar, and immediately contacted Yonatan” says Cohen.

However, Box rejected the enthusiastic high school girls and made it clear that he did not intend to cooperate with a film dealing with the murder again – and hung up. They did not give up, however, and after further investigation came back to him with an offer he could not refuse: to star in a film that focuses on life after the incident, rehabilitation and attempts to fulfill his dream of becoming a model. “I did not agree to participate in a film that attempts to show me as a miserable person,” Box says. “In the film, and also in life, I prefer the way of hope, though the treatments, swimming and fitness training are not easy at all “.

The film opens with a clip that shows Yonatan dancing, and then immediately cuts to the sad truth, him sitting in a wheelchair and watching the video of himself, taken before the injury. Later he goes on to produce a picture portfolio, where a whole hair and make up team is working on him for a whole day – and an entertainment TV show follows him as well. These small gestures and others deepened the relationship between Box and the filmmakers during the filming, and he started to open up  and agreed to talk about the murder, the rehabilitation process and his homosexuality.

Yonatan, what brought you to Bar Noar?

“I had a serious fight with my mom, and I decided to travel to Tel Aviv to meet with Liz, who was a kind friend /partner. She asked me to come with her to say hello to some friends. Five minutes after we got there, a masked man came and sprayed us all.  I Saw Liz – she was lying there on the floor, she wasn’t breathing. I took a bullet in the shoulder and one in the spine, and I fell. ”

How do you feel about Bar Boar?

“The  relationship with Bar Noar is not for me. I have no problem with gays, each shall do whatever they want. Before I was injured I went to a lot of gay and lesbians parties, I had fun with them, but I wasn’t really attracted to men. I’m not straight or gay, and now it’s even harder for me, because when you are in a wheelchair your sexuality is fucked. ”

Box, now 18, lives in Haifa with his parents and is about to finish his high school studies. He made  Aliyah from Moldova at the age of two with his mother. He has never met his biological father, and so for him, his stepfather is his father. “He’s the one who raised me,” he said fondly.

Did you see the film before they started screening it?

“The first time I saw it was in a screening at school. Apart from a little embarrassment about something I said about my father, I was really pleased.”

How  do you explain the success of the film?

“in my opinion, the optimistic spirit of the film is what made its success. I’m sure if the film had been focused on the event, and introduced me as a pitiable kid, it wouldn’t have been as special. Becoming a cripple in a wheelchair can really be the end of the world, but it’s you who decides what life you’re going to live. The first time I left the house in a wheelchair I was terrified that something bad would happen to me. Four months after the event I closed a circle when I returned to the Bar Noar, and I got over the trauma. I do not believe in therapy. ”

Where will you be five years from Now?

“I hope to be in a relationship, living in my own apartment in Tel Aviv, because there lies anything that has to do with fulfilling my dream – modeling, acting and TV. Unfortunately I became famous in Israel as ‘The child from the Bar Noar Murder,’ and it’s no fun to be pitied. There are many models in wheelchairs abroad. I want to be the first model in a wheelchair in Israel. I want to be a famous talent,  so you’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, I interviewed him once. ”