November 16, 2018

Lior Raz On ‘Fauda’s’ Return

Ohad Romano / Yes Studios

When it premiered on Israeli TV in 2015, the drama series “Fauda” broke new ground for its portrayal of both Jews and Palestinians as fully-fledged, equally flawed human beings, and the complicated conflict between them in many shades of gray.

Amid praise and accolades, including six Israeli Academy of Film and Television (Ophir) awards, Netflix acquired the series and began streaming it in December 2016. The second season, which aired last year in Israel and earned 11 Ophirs, premieres May 24 on Netflix.

“Fauda,” which means chaos in Arabic, follows both an Israeli counter-terrorism unit operating in the West Bank and Hamas terrorists. The show is presented in Hebrew and Arabic. Tellingly, there are a lot of similarities between Israeli Doron Kavillio, played by series co-creator Lior Raz, and terrorist leader Nidal aka “Al Makdesi” (Firas Nassar). Both men are hotheaded, doggedly determined and defy authority. And just as the members of Doron’s unit pose as Arabs to gather intelligence, Nidal uses college students posing as Jews in his attacks.

“We always try to find the similarity on both sides, between the nemesis and the hero,” Raz said by telephone from Israel. “There are similarities in how they behave, but Nidal is a terrorist who kills innocent people and is motivated by revenge. Doron is motivated by the chase, the adrenaline and that someone is threatening his life and his family’s lives.”

Thematically, “this season is about the relationships between fathers and sons and it’s about revenge — how the circle of violence continues because of the need for revenge,” Raz said. “And about the price that both sides are paying for their actions.”

Doron Ben-David (left) and Lior Raz in “Fauda.” Photos courtesy of Netflix.

“I’m very connected to my heritage and my Judaism.” — Lior Raz

Raz, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in an undercover special ops unit, based a lot of “Fauda” on his experiences. “I took a lot of things from my experiences, not just in the military, but in life,” he said. “The relationship with my father in the show is very similar to my relationship with my father in real life. But there are other [fictional] things that are just good drama. We try to combine everything.”

When “Fauda” was first broadcast in Israel, “people didn’t know how to react,” Raz said. “There was a little bit of criticism, but as the season went on they loved it. I thought no one would watch, just my family. But it has become a big hit all over the world.” From Jews in particular, he noted, “I feel there is a pride about the show and I’m so glad to see it when I meet with people in Jewish communities all over the world.”

The fact that “Fauda” was embraced by a wide spectrum of people also took Raz by surprise. “We thought the Israeli right wingers would hate us because we are humanizing the Palestinian; the left wingers would hate us because we show Israeli soldiers doing bad things sometimes, and we thought the Arabs and Palestinians would hate us because we’re showing terrorists killing Israelis. But what happened is the right wingers think it’s a right-wing show, the left wingers think it’s a left-wing show and the Arabs love it because we’re honoring their language and their narrative, showing their side,” he said. “That’s the secret of the success of the show.”

Born in Israel to an Iraqi father and an Algerian mother, Raz grew up listening to Arabic music alongside Tchaikovsky and Mozart and speaking Arabic with his parents and grandmother. “We were culturally Jewish. We celebrated the holidays, we fasted on Yom Kippur and had Kiddush on Friday night, but that’s it,” he said.

Nonetheless, his Jewish identity is ironclad. “This is my heritage and why I live in Israel,” he said. “I’m very connected to my heritage and my Judaism. In Israel, it’s not a question at all. It’s something you’re born into when you live in the Jewish state. You fight for the Jewish state. You belong to the Jewish state. You cannot disconnect the two.”

After his IDF service, Raz moved to Los Angeles in 1993 and was hired by an Israeli-run personal security company as a bodyguard for Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It was nothing to write home about. I was in the home, with his family,” Raz said.

Working for the movie star had no influence on Raz’s eventual career choice.

“I didn’t want to be an actor at that time. I thought I’d be connected to security all my life,” he said. However, when he returned to Israel a year later, he looked into working at a tech company. “But I woke up one morning and realized I’m not living my dream. And I went to acting school when I was 24.”

After studying at the Nissan Nativ drama school in Tel Aviv, Raz began landing roles in theater and small parts in TV series, including “Srugim,” “Mesudarim,” “The Gordin Cell,” and “Prime Minister’s Children.” He has often played soldiers, policemen and undercover agents in projects with dramatic heft, but reveals that he “has done a lot of comedy in my life,” including improv. “I would love to do more,” he said.

His next film isn’t a comedy, but it’s a prestige project: “Operation Finale,” about Israel’s secret mission to capture Nazi Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann and bring him to justice. Raz plays Isser Harel, director of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad in the film, which will be released Sept. 21. He felt a sense of accountability to both the person and the history.

“It was a story that we grew up on in Israel, since I was a kid. The responsibility isn’t just to the character but to the story. We tried to be as authentic as we could,” he said. “It was a great experience working with actors like Ben Kingsley, Melanie Laurent [and] Oscar Isaac. I want to work more and more in the U.S. and internationally and I’m doing it. I have a lot of plans for that. There are a lot of options right now.”

These days, Raz lives in L.A. part time, but his home and family — actress Meital Barda and their three children, ages 3, 8 and 10—are in Ramat HaSharon, Israel.

He and co-creator Avi Issacharoff are now writing scripts for the third season of “Fauda,” and are developing two new series for Netflix. One is about a joint CIA-Mossad operation to capture and kill a terrorist leader, and the other is a thriller about a man whose wife is killed in a mysterious hit-and-run accident.

“I want to do what we did in Israel, creating shows and acting in international shows, bringing my point of view and Avi’s point of view to people all over the world,” Raz said.

He hopes that viewers who tune in to the new episodes of “Fauda” will be entertained first, “and second, understand both sides of the conflict. I want them to understand that war is bad, no matter where you are — Afghanistan, Syria, Israel — and that there is a price for the actions that you take as a warrior.”

Raz doesn’t think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end anytime soon, but he remains hopeful. “I think extremists on both sides are leading the herd,” he said. “The hope will come from people who understand that we are quite alike. The first thing is for both sides to learn the language. This is how we can start the peace process.”

The second season of “Fauda” is streaming on Netflix.

What to do in Los Angeles this week: May 19-25

SUN | MAY 21

AN EVENING WITH LIOR RAZ

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Western Region brings you an evening with Lior Raz (above, center), creator and star of the hit Israeli series “Fauda,” available on Netflix. Raz, who in the show plays a retired commander of an elite undercover unit, will discuss his experience in the military and why he decided to write about it. 5 p.m. $75; $50 for Young Leaders. All proceeds will support Israel Defense Forces combat veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder. Address provided upon RSVP. Limited seating. (323) 843-2690. fidf.org.

GEAR UP FOR CAMP DAY

Volunteering at the annual Gear Up for Camp Day is a great way to help prepare kids for an unforgettable summer. Start the morning by assembling packages of necessities for 1,000 Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters campers. Afterward, a fun-filled day awaits, featuring outdoor games and activities, such as arts and crafts, an inflatable obstacle course and live music. 8:30 a.m. Free. Camp Bob Waldorf of the Max Straus Campus. 1041 Shirlyjean St., Glendale. jewishla.org.

HOPE FOR ADAM LEGACY WALK

Adam Krief

Join the Hope for Adam Legacy Walk, celebrating the spirit of Adam Krief, a father of three whose search for a bone marrow donor gained traction on social media, and those around him who tirelessly worked for a miracle. A donor was found, but his body rejected the transplant and Krief, 31, died in March of a rare blood cancer. Family and friends continue the quest to get people involved, swabbed and cured so no one goes without a donor match. There will be activities for kids. The first 500 registered guests will receive a T-shirt. 9 a.m. Free. UCLA, Drake Stadium, 340 Bruin Walk, Los Angeles. (561) 982-2926. giftoflife.org/hope4adamwalk.

“ISRAEL IN 3D: CIVIL SOCIETY IN ACTION”

The Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies will hold its fifth daylong “Israel in 3D” community conference. Leading civic activists and social entrepreneurs will discuss critical societal issues in Israel and their efforts to help solve them. Panels include “Building a Shared Society,” “The Voice of the Arts” and “Doing Well by Doing Good.” Speakers include Guy Rolnik, one of Israel’s top economics and business journalists, and Tal Schneider, Israeli political journalist and blogger. 10 a.m. $45; $30 for UCLA staff, faculty and professionals younger than 35; $7 for students. UCLA Covel Commons, Grand Horizon Ballroom, 200 De Neve Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646. international.ucla.edu.

ISRAEL PHILHARMONIC’S “FAMILY MUSIC DAY”

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will bring its engaging and educational program to the second West Coast Family Music Day. This rare opportunity is tailored to children in order to spark an interest in music, whether as a musician, conductor or composer. Israeli pianist and educator Orli Shaham will host pre-concert interactive activities, giving each child an opportunity to meet the performers and try their instruments. Shaham also will perform in an audience participation concert. Brunch to follow. All proceeds go to the KeyNote Music Education Program, promoting mutual respect and understanding through music. 10:15 a.m. $125. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 277-0100. afipo.org.

“BUILDING BRIDGES — BUILDING MOVEMENTS”

Jews United for Democracy and Justice (JUDJ) invites you to “Building Bridges — Building Movements: A Los Angeles Activist Summit,” an event designed to educate, enlighten and engage visitors. JUDJ is concerned about rising threats to religious tolerance, equal rights, a free and fair press, human dignity, and long-held norms of decency and civil society. The event will begin with convening remarks, “We Were Made for This: How Los Angeles Is Leading the Way on Issues of Justice and Democracy,” featuring Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles); Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis; Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer; Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson; former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; State Sen. Ben Allen; and Los Angeles Police Department Board of Commissioners Vice President Steve Soboroff. Breakout sessions will provide attendees an opportunity for a deeper look into issues central to JUDJ’s founding principles. 12:30 p.m. Free. Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. leobaecktemple.org.

MON | MAY 22

FOOD ENTREPRENEURS

From food trucks to pop-ups to social media, enjoy a look at the current food and restaurant landscape in L.A. Engage in a thoughtful conversation about the business realities behind each trend. Featuring Jim Hustead, owner of Fleishik’s, Erven and Maré; and Katie McGehee, co-founder of the digital marketing agency Socially You. Enjoy food from Fleishiks and Roy Choi’s A-Frame. 7 p.m. $10. Cross Campus, 929 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica. yala.org.

TUES | MAY 23

ALICIA JO RABINS CONCERT

Alicia Jo Rabins

Join Young Adults of Los Angeles, East Side Jews and the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center for a live performance of “Girls in Trouble,” an indie-folk song cycle about the complicated lives of biblical women. There also will be a hosted cocktail reception and cash bar after the reception. 7 p.m. $10. The Box at the Silverlake Independent JCC, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-2255. yala.org.

WED | MAY 24

“SIX DAYS THAT SHAPED 50 YEARS”

Explore the legacy of the past and the future of modern Israel. “Six Days That Shaped 50 Years” is the theme of this year’s daylong iEngage conference. Featured speakers include Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute; Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am; Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR; Rabbi Edward Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom; and Danielle Berrin, Jewish Journal senior writer and columnist. 9:30 a.m. $36; $18 for students. UCLA Hillel, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. hartman.org.il.

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS FROM THE SIX-DAY WAR

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the Western Region American Committee for Shaare Zedek (ACSZ) NexGen Salon Committee presents David Bahat, an Israel Defense Forces paratrooper who served in the Sinai during the Six-Day War, and Nachum Pessin (via Skype from Jerusalem), executive director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Sushi and dessert provided. 6:30 p.m. $18. Address given upon RSVP (West L.A./Beverly Hills area). (310) 229-0915. acsz.org/salon2017.

GENOCIDE COALITION SYMPOSIUM

Learn about genocide and how to end it. Speakers will include child survivors of genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia. Other participants will represent Yazidis, Syrians, Armenians and multiple African genocides. Organized and moderated by Paul Wilder, the child of Holocaust survivors. 7 p.m. Free. Adat Ari El Synagogue, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 633-1844. adatariel.org.

THURS | MAY 25

PHOTOGRAPHER AMOS MORRIS-REICH

“Race and Photography”

Foregoing the political lens through which racial photography normally is viewed, Amos Morris-Reich of the University of Haifa returns racial photography to the history of science and addresses it as a form of scientific evidence. Morris-Reich reconstructs individual cases, conceptual genealogies and patterns of photography practice for the study of “race” from the 19th century to the Nazi era. He shows that photography was used for such things as statistical data, medical observation of Mendelian characteristics and as a form of psychological “thought experiments.” 4 p.m. Free. UCLA, 314 Royce. (310) 267-5327. cjs.ucla.edu.

COMMUNITY CELEBRATION CONCERT

Enjoy a concert featuring Conductor Nick Strimple, the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale, organist Iain Farrington and a performance by Body Traffic Dance Company. Reception to follow. Sponsored by Pamela and Randol Schoenberg, on the occasion of the bar mitzvah of their son Joseph Samuel Schoenberg, in memory of Joseph’s great-grandfathers, composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl. 7 p.m. Open seating, first-come, first-served. Sinai Temple, Main Sanctuary, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 813-5914.