Andrew L. Urban
Walid, a young Palestinian terrorist, asks Abu Ahmed a revered leader of the Hamas terrorist cell, “Just tell me what’s in that bag?” A beat … “Redemption” replies Abu Ahmed. “The suicide bomber will use it tomorrow in a synagogue. Do you know what sarin gas is?” No, so Ahmed explains that it is a toxic gas whose effects start with symptoms of a cold but soon the victim starts to choke, then vomits and chokes to death. Ahmed explains how “the Jews will respond with an extremely severe retaliation … commit war crimes …all Islamic states will intervene including Iran. By the time America decides to step in it will be too late for it will be the beginning of the end of Zionists.” The younger man expresses concern; “We’ve never done anything like this before…or used nerve gas.” Abu Ahmed tells him, “Think big.”
This happens in episode 11 of the first series of Fauda (Chaos), produced in 2015. Watching it again now at the end of 2023, it is startling how prophetic many of the scenes seem. It seems like chaos foretold. An echo of the future?
In addition to its powerful relevance to the current war in Gaza, the element that recommends the series above all is its empathetic treatment of human stories on both sides of the conflict. Moral questions are relative. Relationships of all kinds are explored across the historic, religious divide, including some that are broken amidst the carnage of the physical world in which the series is set.
Personal, intimate moments are scattered throughout as part of the story. All the more affecting when these characters we get to know commit acts of violence against each other.
Outstanding scripts, superb performances and production values, this Netflix series is gripping and emotionally powerful. There are also violent scenes as the terrorists and the Israelis of the anti-terrorist agency clash in their eternal struggle for survival.
Created by Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz (who also stars), the show went on after its 2015 opening run and now comprises 49 x 1 hour episodes in four series. Fauda has won plenty of plaudits at the Israeli Television Academy, but more importantly perhaps, it is an authoritative insight into the hazardous lives lived out in the fractious world of the Middle East. The accumulation of storylines, characters and events provide viewers with a dramatized yet authentic view that is relevant to today’s most explosive conflict and confounds any simplistic notions that some viewers may have.