From Israel, A Hit TV Thriller Of War's Chaos — And Its Domestic Cost

Jun 2, 2018

An Israeli television series with an Arabic name that shows Israelis and Palestinians plotting against each other — and themselves — has become a fan favorite in 190 countries around the world, including Israel and many Arab states.

Fauda — Arabic for "chaos" — is now streaming its second season on Netflix in the United States. Lior Raz stars as Doron, an Israeli Defense Forces special operative who defies authority, has a messy domestic life and complicates everything by both spying on and falling for a Palestinian doctor who gets married to a Hamas commander.

"He's good in war," Raz says in an interview. "He's addicted to adrenaline; he's addicted to his friends, his unit; he's addicted to the field."

In addition to playing a starring role, Raz is one of the show's two creators. He brings personal experience as an IDF undercover agent to the table.

"It's a TV show, but yes, we wrote — me and my co-creator, Avi Issacharoff, who's the journalist — we wrote about our experience in life. Some of it from the army, some of it from just real life. And yea, I used to be in this kind of unit when I was young, in the army — in the Israeli Army."


Interview Highlights

On portraying the domestic lives of both Palestinians and Israelis in the show

We wanted to show that it's much more than just the bad guys and the good guys. I remember that I went to the writer's room and when we were sitting there, I said, "I really want to be able, and love, and want to play every and each role in this show." Most of the terrorists that I saw on TV shows and movies are just the bad guys. Nothing — they didn't have kids, they didn't have families, they didn't have love, they didn't have anything. And we wanted to show that: We wanted to show that the Israelis, they are not just the soldiers — the brutal, bad soldiers. And this is why people feel compassion for both sides.

I can tell you that the [actor who plays the] terrorist in our show, when he go out in the streets of Israel — even in settlements, it doesn't matter where — people just want to take a selfie with him. They became sex symbols, for both Jewish and Arabs, it doesn't matter, it's like — it's crazy.

On filming in the Arab-Israeli village of Kafr Qasim

So when we started to shoot the first season, there was like — the Gaza War started. And I remember we cancelled the first day of shooting because we were scared. And I think officials called us, like, that night, and they said: Listen, let's talk about coexistence. And immediately, like that night or day after, we came for month and a half or two months. And we actually was there from morning till dawn till night working in Kafr Qasim in, like a bubble of creativity and love, of Arabs and Israelis work together, because the missiles ... don't know if you are Jewish or Arab — they are just falling. So it was a crazy situation, and very tense situation. But it's made the show better because of that.

On what he hopes Americans will learn from the show

I hope that they will see that there is — and not just Americans, I think everyone who's watching the show — that they have to understand that there is a price for a war, and the people on the field are paying this price, if it's mental or physical price. But also the people who surrounding them — their families, their friends, everyone paying a price for the action of people who's in the battle zone. It doesn't matter if it's in Israel, in Afghanistan, it doesn't matter. And the people who are there: It's much more complicated than we think.

On what he hopes Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs will take away from the show

You know what, a great thing that happened in Israel because of the show: that thousands of Israelis started to learn Arabic. And I think it's great, and I think it's amazing, because now, for a dialogue, you need to know the language of the other side. And I think this is starting a process to have a dialogue and understand that it's much more complicated.

Sophia Boyd and Joanne Levine produced and edited the audio of this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An Israeli television series with an Arabic name that shows Israelis and Palestinians plotting against each other and themselves has become a fan favorite in 190 countries around the world, including Israel and many Arab states. "Fauda" - chaos, in Arabic - is now streaming its second season on Netflix in America. Lior Raz stars as Doron, an Israeli Defense Forces undercover operative who defies authority, has a messy domestic life and complicates everything by both spying on and falling for a Palestinian doctor who gets married to a Hamas commander. Lior Raz, one of the co-creators of "Fauda," joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

LIOR RAZ: Thank you. I'm really glad to be here.

SIMON: You were, according to reports, an actual undercover Israeli operative. So are you just spilling a lot of your true stories in this?

RAZ: Yeah. It's like - it's a TV show. But, yes. We wrote - me and my co-creator, Avi Issacharoff, who's the journalist - we wrote about our experience in life, some of it from the army, some of it from just real life. And, yeah. I used to be in this kind of unit when I was young in the army - in the Israeli army.

SIMON: The show doesn't excuse suicide bombers or, for that matter, brutal Israeli agents. But it does show their own lives. What's the effect of that?

RAZ: We wanted to show that it's much more than just the bad guys and the good guys. I remember that I went to the writer's room. And when we were sitting there, I said, I really want to be able and love and want to play every and each role in this show. Most of the terrorists that I saw on TV shows and movies are just the bad guys. Nothing - they didn't have kids. They didn't have families. They didn't have love. They didn't have anything.

And we wanted to show that. We wanted to show that the Israelis - they are not just the soldiers, the brutal bad soldiers. And this is why people feel compassion for both sides. But I can tell you that the terrorists in our show, when they go out in the streets of Israel - even in settlements - it doesn't matter where - people just want to take a selfie with him.

SIMON: (Laughter).

RAZ: They became sex symbols for Jewish and Arabs. It doesn't matter. It's like - it's crazy (laughter).

SIMON: What was it like to - I gather you filmed in Arab-Israeli village Kafr Qasim. What was that like?

RAZ: So when we started to shoot the first season, there was like - the Gaza war started. And I remember we canceled the first day of shooting because we were scared. And I think officials called us, like, at the night. And they said, listen, let's talk about coexistence.

And immediately - like, that night or day after, we came for a month and a half or two months, and we actually was there from morning until dawn until night, working in Kafr Qasim in, like, a bubble of creativity and love of Arabs and Israelis who work together because the missiles came from - oh, camps (ph) from Gaza - don't know if you are Jewish or Arab. They are just falling. So it was a crazy situation and very tense situation. But it's made the show better because of that.

SIMON: I have to ask you, as a citizen, even more than a producer or actor, if you have any reaction to recent events in which scores of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in what was called the March of Return along the Gaza border.

RAZ: First of all, as a citizen, every person who died there - it doesn't matter. Israeli or Palestinian - it's heartbreaking. But from the other side, just imagine you have to protect yourself. And I think Israel protected herself.

SIMON: Weren't there are a lot of innocent people, though, and children certainly unarmed?

RAZ: I don't know. I know that 60 people - or something like that - got killed. And it's heartbreaking. But 50 of them were terror members of the Hamas. This is what the Hamas said. But let's talk about art.

SIMON: All right. What do you hope Americans will learn watching "Fauda"?

RAZ: I hope that they will see that there is - and not just Americans. I think everyone who is watching the show, that they have to understand that there is a price for a war. And the people on the field are paying this price if it's mental or physical price.

But also, the people who are surrounding them - their families, their friends. Everyone paying a price for the action of people who's in the battle zone. It doesn't matter if it's in Israel, if it's in Afghanistan. It doesn't matter. And the people who are there - it's much more complicated than we think.

SIMON: And what do you hope Israelis and Palestinians and people who live in Arab countries will learn by watching the show or how they'll react, respond, feel?

RAZ: I want people to - you know, what a great thing that happened in Israel because of this show that thousands of Israelis started to learn Arabic. And I think it's great. And I think it's amazing because now for a dialogue, you need to know the language of the other side. And I think this is starting a process to have a dialogue and understand that it's much more complicated.

SIMON: You know, when the series opened, season one - Doron is in the wine business. I don't think he's long for the wine business. Do I have that wrong?

RAZ: (Laughter) No. He's not good in it, not really (laughter). He's good in war. He's addicted to adrenaline. He's addicted to his friends, his unit. He's addicted to the field. And this was - he tried to be the person who's just leaving the winery. But it was very hard for him.

SIMON: Well, then I have to ask you, Mr. Raz. I mean, "Fauda" has become a big international hit. But, I mean, is this something you have to do to keep a hand in the game, too?

RAZ: I think, you know, I did it a long time ago. And now I'm trying to settle down and do my art and act and write. And I think, for me, this is my winery.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Lior Raz, one of the co-creators and one of the stars of "Fauda." Second season is now on Netflix. Thanks so much for being with us.

RAZ: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.