In ‘The Engineer,’ a terrible bus bombing kickstarts the events that culminate in the assassination of the man who had masterminded the attack, in addition to several other deadly attacks in Tel Aviv. The story focuses on the hunt for Yahya Ayyash by Israeli forces, but they are not the only ones after him. A US Senator named David Adler launches his own efforts to bring the terrorist to justice. He is spurred by a personal loss, his daughter being one of the victims of the bus bombing. Considering that the movie is based on real events, the audience is bound to wonder if Senator David Adler and his daughter are based on real people.
David Adler’s Arc is Inspired by a Real Incident
‘The Engineer’ is based on real events, but the film’s writer and director had to fill in a lot of gaps about the secret operation in which the Israeli authorities have never confirmed (or denied) their involvement. The details of the mission to find and kill Ayyash remain secret, which gave the writer, Kosta Kondilopoulous, a lot of room to concoct his own version of how things might have happened. In doing so, he added the plot line about a senator who calls upon the services of an ex-Mossad agent to find and kill Ayyash.
While the filmmakers have not revealed whether they were inspired by a certain event or real people to base the character of David Adler, there are similarities that Adler and his daughter have with real people. In 2003, New Jersey state legislator Robert Singer’s daughter found herself in a situation much like Adler’s daughter in the movie. In the film, Adler’s daughter boards a bus, not knowing that a suicide bomber is on it too. When the bomb explodes, everyone, including Adler’s daughter, on the bus dies. In real life, Robert Singer’s daughter survived.
Sarri Singer was 30 years old when she boarded a bus in Jerusalem in 2003. She was on her way to meet a friend for dinner and took a window seat (despite her preference for aisle seats) on a bus so jam-packed with people that there was no wiggle room for anyone. Unbeknownst to her, there was a suicide bomber on board, standing so close that there were only a couple of people between them. He had 22 pounds of explosives strapped on him, and when it exploded, it killed 16 people, but Sarri survived.
Later, she revealed the injuries she’d sustained in the attack. Her clavicle bone was broken, both her eardrums were blown, her hair and face sustained burns, her leg was injured, and there was shrapnel in her mouth that couldn’t be operated on and is reportedly still there. She stayed for two weeks in the hospital and decided to spend around another week in Israel before moving back to the States to recuperate.
Sarri Singer used to work a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center and had been late for work on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were attacked. She felt the gravity of having come so close to death and the impact of terrorism that she decided to do something about it, and this led her to Israel, where she had a closer brush with death in 2003. She was not the only American on the bus that day. 46-year-old Alan Beer from Cleveland was also on it, and he died in the blast.
The trauma of having survived a terrorist attack pushed Sarri to work for others who’d been through and survived similar circumstances. Now, she runs Strength to Strength, a non-profit organization that aims to help victims of terror attacks by giving them psychological care, among other things. She has spoken up against terrorism and continues to work around the world to help people heal.
‘The Engineer’ seems to have been inspired by her story, but instead of following Sarri’s journey post the terror attack, the filmmakers focused on the “what if” scenario where the daughter doesn’t survive. What would a US Senator do in such a situation? This question allows the film to imagine an off-the-books mission with ex-Mossad and Shin Bet agents, who eventually join forces with the Israeli agents to bring Ayyash to justice.