Thursday, April 30, 2020

Fauda-Season Three | Lefsetz Letter

There’s never gonna be peace in the Middle East.

Unless the Arabs succeed in eliminating the Jews.

The “R” word the Israelis are up against isn’t rationality, but religion. Everybody in Gaza, everybody south of Hebron, greets each other in a religious way. Religion is baked-in to everyday life. To a limit even the Evangelicals don’t push. But both believe they’re going to be saved in the afterlife.

And life in Gaza ain’t so good to begin with.

The power goes out. There are few opportunities for work. Best to dedicate your efforts to a cause.

Now, in these days of political correctness, you can’t call a spade a spade, you certainly cannot use that word to describe a black person, oops, an African-American. And somehow, you’re unenlightened if you don’t see the plight of the Palestinians and blame Israel.

Israel is not blameless. Netanyahu is not a saint and the settlements in the West Bank are just asking for retaliation.

But once again, the Palestinians won’t be satisfied until Israel no longer exists. Would you fight for your very existence?

I’m sure you would.

Right now, you’re at home worried about a deadly virus. But you also know if you stay home, you most assuredly will stay safe. Whereas in Israel nowhere is safe. Your life is constantly on the line. It’s palpable, you can feel it in the air.

But “Fauda” is not about the big issues, a theoretical two-state solution that the Arabs have refused to ever agree to, the Israeli government, no it’s about the ongoing war between the two sides, and neither emerges a winner, it just goes on and on and on.

Now season three is different from seasons one and two.

Usually, these series that are a surprise hit falter after their initial success. The producers/actors/directors wing it the first time around, they’re not self-conscious, they’ll try anything, after all no one is paying attention. But when everybody is…

We laud the basketball players. They’re incredible under pressure. But they’re not reinventing the game. That’s the essence of creative work, you start with a blank slate. Sure, you might have some parameters, the characters from the season before, but you’ve got to make it up out of thin air.

But “Fauda” delivered, season two was just as good as season one.

But the first two seasons were about the nuts and bolts. How the Israeli and Arab bosses speak to each other, how there are constant skirmishes.

Season three is about the action.

Hebron is part of Israel, but it’s never been safe for Jews. You enter uptight and you do not close an eye, assuming you enter at all.

As for Gaza…

That’s what frightens all the Israelis, going into Gaza.

So, at first you’ve got no idea what is going on, Doron seems to be hanging with Arabs, or..? It’s confusing. But then it comes clear.

And it seems contrived, seems like a typical cops and robbers Hollywood thriller but it just doesn’t work out that way. Of course Doron can’t die, he’s the star, but everybody else is fair game.

So what we’ve got here is a group of adrenaline junkies. They’re willing to face fear, put their lives on the line all the time for the good of the country.

Not that they’re automatons.

Sure, their home lives suffer, but they have emotions. That’s one of the best parts of this season, seeing how the team deals, or doesn’t deal, with loss.

But just when you’ve got it figured out, when you wince because you’re sure you know what is gonna happen, it doesn’t go down that way.

And once again, victory is only temporary. And the worst offenders can be returned in a prisoner swap. It’s a game, but it involves life and death.

Now there are all these canards about TV watching. That you’ve got to have someone to care about, that you must be invested in a character, there must be an uplifting ending.

Well, you root for Doron, but you’re not sure you want to be friends with him. You’re not sure he can be friends with anybody, but he’s loyal.

As for Lior Raz, who plays Doron, he used to be a bodyguard for Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, he’s not only tough on the show, he’s tough in real life.

And he doesn’t have a Hollywood look. He’s not cute or precious, this is not Brad Pitt, this is the guy down the street on a mission, and that’s who we’re drawn to, just like we’re drawn to the doctors and nurses and hospital workers during this coronavirus crisis. Surface only goes so far. Especially when your truth is exposed in this internet age and we oftentimes find out you’re a soulless dummy, an empty vessel.

So, there’s action, it’s gripping, but it’s also real.

There’s an inside joke in the middle, when in Gaza someone talks about Kentucky Fried Chicken. That was a thing, it was in the news a few years back, the Arabs tunneled to Israel to bring back KFC.

The tunnels. They’re here too. These are not the tunnels of the Sinaloans, these look like they were built by the military, you can argue they were. With finished walls and…

You can’t quite divorce yourself from the show. With most movies and TV shows they ask you to suspend disbelief. But the truth is the Israelis and the Arabs are fighting against each other as I write this.

And it’s not the low-tech war of yore, but highly digitized.

And if you only like happy shows, with no bullets and no deaths, you should watch this anyway. Because this truly is real life, these people put their lives on the line for you. And despite all the hosannas, the adulation comes and goes nearly instantly, everybody goes back to their regular life and those on the front line, stay on the front line.

Duplicity, family, honor, credibility, all the characteristics of humanity are evidenced in “Fauda.” And for those of us surrounded by our gadgets, surfing the internet, the Arab/Israeli crisis is almost appealing. These people have something to live for, a cause. It’s not about money, it’s not about your place on the totem pole, all the markers we judge each other by in the U.S. are nearly irrelevant.

And that’s one of the things too often missing from American life today, meaning.

Without meaning life is empty.

You think you want to retire, to do what?

And you work all those years at a job you far from like just so you can earn a pile of money so you can stop doing it?

Once again, these people in the show are not robots. They’ve got feelings, but that does not conflict with their mission.

Not that “Fauda” needs to be on the top of your streaming list, but it needs to be there somewhere.

For far too long television meant mindless. And although there’s still a lot of bogus entertainment on the flat screen, there’s a plethora of meaning there too, even more than you see in theatres, good riddance.

You see life is about story.

That’s what propels hip-hop.

But the best stories on television embody truth. And somehow, in music, we’ve left truth out of the equation, we equate success with chart position and dollars and making it is so difficult you’ll compromise all your values in an effort to succeed.

But the characters in “Fauda” won’t.

That’s the difference.

You should experience it.


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