Character Focus: Dr. Yael Donan

Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer plays Dr. Yael Donan: a heroine whose inclination to fight in order to preserve a sense of dignity and professionalism, is challenged when she is coerced into morally ambivalent circumstances that affects her country and the people she loves in Hostages.


We first meet Dr. Yael Donan bound and gagged by her family’s side at the start of the hostage situation which then backtracks to 12 hours earlier, enabling us to gauge her character as a caring mother, devoted wife and brilliant surgeon. Now, she must betray her government and take on the role of assassin and ensure the Prime Minister Shmuel Netzer (Shmil Ben Ari) does not awake from his operation. If she does not carry out this mission her husband and children will die.

Yael’s reputation as an exemplary doctor is anchored by the upcoming prestigious patient on her roster. Nevertheless, the stress of her job does not affect her family atmosphere; she appears to be a relaxed and attentive mother, reverting schoolteacher husband Eyal (Micha Celektar) as the disciplinary figure in the Donan household. However, being selected for this high-profile operation has tarred her with animosity from her senior and head of department Professor Ariel Bentzur (Chayim Sharir): “When you want something you know how to go after it.” Bentzur exacerbates workplace politics of age and gender discrimination that creates a clash, leaving Yael and her clandestine task vulnerable to an act of vengeance.

Yael appears to have honed the ability to compartmentalise her emotions and projects a stoic composure with her colleagues and peers. This is ultimately tested when she desperately tries to maintain a calm façade at the hospital, while being watched by the hostage takers from her besieged home. Yael’s strength and tenacity is presented when she confronts her captors in the first episode; proving her will to succeed cannot be easily compromised in the face of overwhelming adversity: “I don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing but I promise you one thing if anything happens to my kids you’ll regret the day you came here.”

Her heightened intellect is transferred to devious methods as Yael is compelled to undermine her attackers. She also learns that attempting to postpone the operation is not easy without arousing suspicion. Will it buy her time to get out of her catch-22 situation or prolong the tense atmosphere and endanger her family even more?

Ayelet Zurer has starred in Hollywood movies alongside a studded international cast including her English speaking debut in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated Munich (2005). Her feature-film credits also include Vantage Point (2008), Angels & Demons (2009) and Man of Steel (2013). Zurer can be seen next in the Marvel fantasy Netflix series Daredevil (2015-), as well as the historical epic remake Ben-Hur which has been scheduled for a 2016 release.

Hostages continues on BBC Four on Saturdays at 9pm