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By Nicole Lampert
January 26, 2023


As Fauda returns for a fourth season, co-creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff reflect on the show’s global impact and why authenticity has been the key to its success.

A few months ago, Lior Raz, writer and star of Israeli show Fauda, was shown a large image of himself on the front of an Egyptian newspaper. He worried at first. Was he in trouble? Was he in danger?

Lior Raz

It was quite the opposite. The photograph of him was accompanied by an article written by a journalist who admitted she had a bit of a crush on Raz’s brooding tough guy character Doron. What is more, the article was about how Fauda was helping Egyptians see Israelis in a different way.

“They used to portray us being evil, like Nazis, but because of Fauda they see who we are,” says Raz. “We have humanised both sides in this conflict.”

Art often has grandiose intentions of changing the world. Fauda, the fourth season of which dropped on Netflix last Friday, is getting closer to making a difference than most.

It has been a top 10 show in many countries normally hostile to Israel: Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. “I can’t go down the street in some of those countries because people try and grab me or chase after me shouting, ‘Doron, Doron, Doron,’” laughs Raz, who is surprised to find himself an international pin-up. “A few weeks ago, the Bahraini ambassador to the US was interviewed and was asked about the peace process. He started his answer by saying, ‘I was watching Fauda on Netflix…’”

And because the Palestinians are equally humanised in this complex but incredibly watchable series, it has made a difference in Israel too. “The right wing in our country said to us, ‘For the first time we feel compassionate about the other side.’”

For Raz’s co-writer, Avi Issacharoff, whose work as a journalist had taken him across the bitter divide in the Israel/Palestine conflict, it is just as surprising to find out how much even the Palestinians have become fans – even if (or perhaps because) it is officially frowned upon.

Avi Issacharoff

“It is even more complicated with them because while we portray the Palestinians in a complex way – we give them names, we give them families – our sympathy is still with the Israelis, so they are kind of the bad guys,” says Issacharoff. “But one day someone very close to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called me and said, ‘I have been watching Fauda with my son. You have to say hi to Doron and Captain Ayub!’ It was kind of crazy.

“There are some people in Hamas who don’t like it too much. They claimed Fauda was an Israeli attempt to beat Hamas in the field of cinema because we couldn’t beat them on the battlefield. They called it Zionist propaganda, but at the end of one of their articles about us they posted a link for the first episode, and this was just when it was on a few channels.

“The next day I got a phone call from a Hamas official who lives in Qatar. He’s chit chatting about the situation in Israel and I feel he wants to ask me something, and then he does. He says, ‘Can you send me a link for the second episode?’”

It is hard to know what makes a show one of the most popular in the world. But for Raz and Issacharoff, the key to Fauda’s success is its authenticity. The layered and tense storyline focuses on an Arab-speaking Israeli commando unit who infiltrate Arab society to find terrorists. Across all four seasons, we see how violence begets violence. It is there in the very first episode when the unit’s attempt to grab a terrorist goes wrong and they end up shooting someone at a wedding. Revenge is swift; the Palestinians retaliate with a bomb in a bar.

Raz and Issacharoff, Jerusalemites whose families both originally came from Arab countries, have been friends since they were 16 and were both in the elite unite, called the Duvdevan, which is featured in the series.

They had joined the reserves of the unit, working in the West Bank, when they came up with the idea of Fauda. By then Issacharoff was already a top journalist and Raz a jobbing actor. “Avi asked me if I had a dream and I told him I wanted to write something about the people we were then with, about the mental price they were all paying, the price everybody surrounding them was paying,” says Raz. “We both wanted to talk about the Palestinian side too because knowing who they are is just as important.”

Fauda was originally turned down for being too gritty for the Israeli market

Finding someone willing to make the show was a struggle. Israelis live with the conflict; when they watch the television they prefer light entertainment. Raz and Issacharoff got a lot of no’s.

“We managed to find someone to help us pitch to the production company Yes,” recalls Issacharoff. “There was one guy and three women in the room. He was enthusiastic, the women seemed less so. They said, ‘This show won’t be watched by women.’ But they still took it on, it became the success it became, and when they did research into the viewers, they found more women were watching the show than men.

“We don’t know the exact reasons for the success but I think a big part of it is the authenticity. We took stories from real life, from our lives, and we put them in the story. Every episode of Fauda, every character, you will find something that is real. And sometimes we almost predict things; in our third season we wrote about our team being exposed while they were working in the Gaza Strip. As we were writing it, there was a real team of undercover soldiers that were exposed – so we were having this strange dialogue with reality.

“And we are showing some of the reality of a conflict many people will have seen on the news. But now they see it from the perspective of people who are there, whether they are undercover Israelis or Palestinians. As a journalist, I got to talk to Palestinians – some of them the terrorists my unit would once hunt. I’d have a coffee or even lunch with them. Fauda shows the complexity and the contradictions of the conflict.”

Ala Dakka and Lior Raz as Bashar and Doron

Over the series, the story has taken the unit from the West Bank to Gaza to, in this season, Brussels and Lebanon, testing the team as they have never been tested before. It is fair to say the incredible tension Fauda is famous for is there from the off.

Because the show has become such an international success – with India making the first local version – Raz and Issacharoff have a very international outlook. Their company, Faraway Road Productions, is planning to team up with creatives from across Arab nations to create more work that crosses borders.

“We are thinking creatively all the time. We just wrapped something in Morocco which we have made for Showtime and we are living the dream,” says Raz. “It is a dream we didn’t even dare to dream.

“We are creating a hub for content from the Middle East, specifically between Israel and the UAE. We are bringing writers and creators together to bring stories from the Middle East to the world.”

There are also plans for a show set in London and, of course, more Fauda. “We are talking very seriously about making a Fauda movie and we are very open to more seasons,” says Raz. “This has all been a brilliant adventure and we are not sure when it will end.”

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