After seeing the documentary film “The Hangman,” screening November 15 at the U.K. Jewish Film Festival, it is hard not to think of Shalom Nagar as the Forrest Gump of Israel. Like the character played by Tom Hanks, Nagar improbably finds himself in the midst of historical events and meeting famous (infamous, really) people. And according to the yarns the simple-yet-wise Yemini-Israeli butcher spins for his friends, neighbors and the camera, he even helped shape the history of the modern Jewish State.
“The Hangman” is a small, riveting film by Avigail Sperber and Netalie Braun, grantees of the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film. Through it, they tell the story of some of the most pivotal moments in Israeli history through the eyes of the kosher slaughterer who happens to have been Adolf Eichmann’s executioner. Nagar, who was formerly a prison guard, was also posted to the prison in Hebron, where he was among the first Israelis to guard imprisoned Palestinians under Israel’s then-newly established Military Administration. He also happens, according to his version of events, to have been the one to suggest to the Administration that the original settlers in Hebron in 1968 (Rabbi Moshe Levinger and 14 families) be given rooms converted from King Hussein’s stables to live in.