Spoiler alert: If you plan to watch season 4 of the Netflix series “Fauda,” stop reading. Otherwise, consider the humanity of this Israeli show that focuses on the never-ending violence in Israel and the West Bank.
“Fauda” (Arabic for chaos) follows a special commando unit in the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security force. These men and women are Mizrachi Jews—people from families that came to Israel from Arab nations voluntarily or as refugees. Fluent Arabic speakers, the commandos know Arab culture and can even pray unnoticed in mosques—while tracking targets.
The humanity? Producers Lior Raz (who stars as the relentless Doron Kavillio) and Avi Issacharoff) offer a context-laden picture of the struggle between Israelis (including Arabs and Druze) and Palestinians.
“Fauda” does not portray the Palestinians (Hamas and others), along with Hezbollah, Iranians and Syrians, as the good guys. Yet it presents the Palestinians in a very human, often sympathetic light. This doesn’t diminish the show’s popularity in Israel. Moreover, the Jerusalem Post recently reported that “Fauda” is the number-one show in Lebanon, home of Hezbollah.
How does a show that depicts this Israeli unit that kills and captures terrorists dig beneath the surface? Disclosure: I use the word terrorists deliberately. In 1997, my son Yosi was at Jerusalem’s Machane Yehudah market one day before a bomb exploded. Israeli and foreign civilians—Yosi included—represent no military target.
In season four—as in past seasons—Palestinian men intent on killing Jews love their wives—women their husbands—and children, parents, relatives and friends. They believe in their cause (belief in itself doesn’t justify destroying Israel) yet grow tired of the tension and violence. Adel, leader of a cell on the West Bank, tells his wife he can’t take it anymore. He’s done.
Adel has company. The Israeli commandos—middle-aged, battle-hardened veterans—also want out. They can stand just so much bloodshed, including the deaths of their teammates.
And who have they been fighting?
The Israeli commandos share much in common with their enemies. They love speaking Arabic to each other, eating the culture’s food and listening to its music. Arab culture was their families’ culture. At a wedding of commando team members, Captain Gabi Ayub, the Shin Bet higher-up later kidnapped in Brussels, sings a favorite Arabic song. Gabi’s face glows. After a lengthy period of torture, it appears badly bruised.
Season four concludes with a dangerous mission to find Adel. Betrayed, the Israelis come under heavy fire. Doron kills Adel—most TV shows and movies of this type end that way. He also suffers fatal wounds, as does the rest of the team. As they lay dying, they hold hands. It’s a bit didactic but serves the producers’ purpose.
Doron recites the Shema, the Jewish credo, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (the show’s caption translation). He also recites the standard introduction to Muslim blessings of Allah (the same God, after all), the Merciful, the Compassionate. In the Torah (Exodus 34:6-7)—a basis for the Quran—God expresses these attributes
In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses urges the Israelites to uphold the Torah and so “choose life.” “Fauda” leaves us with the sadness that those on both the Israeli and Palestinian far-right engage in a seemingly never-ending, needless spiral of violence and death.
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