‘Fauda’ Lead Writer Reveals Toughest Scene He Had to Write — and Thoughts on Israeli-Palestinian Peace
How do you craft the perfect scene between the hunter and the hunted? That was Moshe Zonder’s concern. The head writer of the award-winning show Fauda, which is available on Netflix, spoke at Ansche Chesed on the Upper West Side of Manhattan recently, and said that one scene was especially complicated.
He cited the moment in the ninth episode of the first season when Doron — an Israeli operative trying to prevent a terrorist attack — meets Abu Ahmed, a Palestinian terrorist known as the Panther.
“Doron is undercover as a Palestinian who wants to become a shahid,” Zonder said, using the Arabic word for martyr. “They are in a way the same person. Abu Ahmed doesn’t know who Doron is, but he can see his pain. He can see that he is disappointed in his family. Doron actually tells him the most intimate things that he doesn’t say to anyone, even … himself.”
Zonder said that he wanted actors Lior Raz and Hisham Suliman to show that their characters had a similar journey in risking their lives and feeling nobody understands what it’s like to be them. He also provided a critique of his own writing.
“I found it much easier to write the Palestinian female characters,” Zonder said, adding that some of the Israeli female characters were “a bit of a cliché.”
Asked by Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky about shows that influenced Fauda, as well as his thoughts on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Zonder said that The Sopranos and The Wire were influences. He also said he doesn’t support boycotting of any kind, and didn’t realize that BDS was such a big problem on American college campuses.
Zonder, who taught a screenwriting class at Rutgers University, said that he experienced no antisemitism or anti-Israel sentiment when teaching there. He added that he was impressed by his students, who were “brave and sincere” in one assignment where they had to write about a traumatic incident.
In real life, a recent Israeli operation was dubbed “Fauda-style” in the media. Zonder said that while he is upset whenever people are killed, the fact that the term is being used shows that the series is having an impact. He also said that Doron is an adrenaline junkie who salivates over the possibility of going out to protect his country.
One woman in the audience said that she has a son currently serving in the Israeli army, and that she had to shut the show off when one scene showed an Israeli soldier getting killed.
Asked by an audience member if there are any Arab writers for the show, Zonder said there were not, and that he trusted the show’s co-creator and veteran journalist Avi Issacharoff to make sure the show had an authentic feel.
As for his feelings on a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Zonder wasn’t optimistic.
“The leaders are cowards,” he said. “You have someone like [former Egyptian president] Anwar Sadat once in 100 years unfortunately. The tragedy of Israel is the stroke of [Ariel] Sharon in 2006. I’m afraid he is the only one [who could have made a deal] and we don’t have anyone who’s brave enough or strong enough.”