Well now I can say I have had face to face interviews with Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff. They are the two creators of one of my favorite TV shows, the Netflix sensation Fauda. Following the airing of season one, Raz, who is also the lead actor, spoke at the Theatre St. Denis and I was among a select number of journalists who got to meet him. We did a telephone interview prior to his next appearance a year and a half ago. On May 14 I attended the Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s annual main event at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount, where Issacharoff was the special guest.
More than 400 people were on hand, raising in excess of $350,000 to support research in cancer and nanotechnology. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is one of Israel’s leading research universities and among the world leaders in many fields. It has around 20,000 students and 4,000 faculty members. More than 100,000 alumni play important roles in all areas of research and development, industry, health care, the economy, society, culture and education in Israel. Issacharoff is one of those grads While his on stage conversation with National Post columnist Barbara Kay was off limits for me to report on, publicist Dan Delmar was kind enough to get me an exclusive on-on-one before the formal presentation.
“I am doing a lot of talks about Fauda,” Issacharoff told me, “but it is very rare that I get to speak at an event sponsored by the university which gave me so much. Ben Gurion is much more than a university. For me it was an eye opener. BGU taught me to always ask the right questions. The Middle Eastern Department taught me my Arabic and a lot about Islam. So in a way it is responsible for the creation of Fauda. I even went back there as a professor.”
Fauda follows an elite undercover Israeli army unit operating in Palestinian society. The program is ground-breaking because it’s mostly in Arabic, and it shows the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that makes people from all sides want to keep watching. In season one of Fauda (Arabic for 'Chaos'), Raz’s character Doron and his team go after a Hamas terrorist who was assumed dead in a previous operation. In season two, which is much darker, they face a new enemy. It is edge of your seat binge watching. I know some people who started watching it on a weekend and barely slept until they finished each episode.
Issacharoff said that filming on season 3, which will see the team spend a lot of time in Gaza, is two-thirds complete. It will begin airing on Israeli television in the fall and debut on Netflix sometime in early 2020.
Issacharoff noted that he never expected Fauda to be such a hit globally. A journalist by profession, he has travelled to Gaza and interviewed terrorist leaders. The show, he said, resonates with Israelis and Arabs alike.
“I’m getting emails from Israelis who are saying for the first time in their life they feel empathy and compassion for the other side,” Mr. Raz said. “And the same from Gaza and Kuwait and Lebanon and Turkey. “We wrote this TV show to write a good TV show, and not to change the face of the Middle East.”
Issacharoff would not give any hints about the season three plot. But he did share the good news that a fourth season has already been green lit. As well, he and Raz have written another show for Netflix called Hit and Run. It is about a happily married man (Raz) whose life is turned upside down when his wife is killed in a mysterious car accident. Filming will begin in September and be split between New York City and Tel Aviv. “It has no connection to Fauda,” he said. “It will air in 190 countries in 2021.”
Following a cocktail dinatoire, guests filed into the main hall where this fantastic video was shown.
CABGU Montreal President Jack Altman opened things up by reminding everyone how the future of Israel lies in the Negev dessert. “BGU has been the engine of growth,” he said.
The evening was held in the memory of the late Gerry and Sherry Feifer, two longtime CBGU stalwarts. Their sons Dr. Andrew and Jonathan (JJ) Feifer announced the establishment of the Sherry and Gerald Feifer Fellowship. CABGU CEO Mark Mendelson thanked regional director Simon Bensimon, executive assistant Michele Richman and their team for a job well done. Israel Deputy Consul General Rotem Segev brought greetings and proudly told us all that she is an engineering grad from BGU.
Kay bantered with Issacharoff for a little more than a half hour. Time ran out to take too many questions by text. Issacharoff spoke about the evolution of Fauda and shared his views on Israeli politics.
I have not been to Israel in more than 25 years but I fondly remember visiting the campus of BGU. It is magnificent and I salute those in Montreal and Canada who promote its growth.