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Tuning In #2: How We Got to Fauda

01/08/2023 07:00:00 AM

Jan8

Michael Greenfield

Fauda’s theme song “Menasim” (Trying) is by Idan Amedi, the actor who plays Sagi. The lyrics, in Hebrew and Arabic, move between searching for serenity and living in chaos (fauda, in Arabic). The chorus promises that we’ll wake tomorrow in a better world. The Fauda characters probably won’t, but American lovers of Israeli TV already have. When Season 4 drops on January 20th, it will be just one of many Israeli TV shows we (and the world) are watching.

Tuning In to Jewish Music #2

How We Got to Fauda: Israeli TV Theme Songs

January 2023

One of the things I love most about Israel is what Rachel Korazim calls sanctifying the secular and secularizing the holy. It’s somewhat inevitable when your language is half Torah/half modernity, and construction sites are regularly inspected for holy antiquities.

Case in point: after American Idol swept the U.S., Israel launched their own version, Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born). The Season 2 stars recorded the theme song for Season 3: a great cover of Tzvika Pick’s Lifamim Cholomot Mitgashmim (1) (Sometimes Dreams Come True). Who is Tzvika Pick? Well, he’s both the kind of guy who ends up on Kochav Nolad in the music video for his cover, and the man behind the upbeat Shema Yisrael that we sing each Friday night at services.

(I’ll embed YouTube links when there’s a great video. The full playlist is on Spotify. Some titles are in Hebrew so the songs are numbered.)

Another case in point: The inflection point that leads to Fauda came around 2008 with a hit show called Srugim (Needlework, as in knitted kippot worn by religious Zionists). It’s a bit like Friends with less hooking up, and instead of I’ll Be There for You, the theme song is by religious rocker Erez Lev Ari. Ana Efne (2) (Where Shall I Turn) opens with the lines, “On the one hand, I chase after Your laws. On the other hand, my passions chase after me. Ashamed and embarrassed, I will enter Your gates.” The capital Y in Your tells us whose laws and gates we’re talking about, and that phrase “I will enter Your gates” is from the Ne’ilah service on Yom Kippur. The chorus includes both the ancient (Eicha) and modern (Eich) spellings of How, but Eicha is also the Hebrew title of the Book of Lamentations. These are some seriously conflicted Friends. They want love, and they want to live in the modern world, but they also feel stuck, as the chorus says, bein ha-olam ha-ba la-olam hazeh, between the messianic world to come and this world. The thing is, it’s just as bingeable as the one with Rachel and Ross because at its heart it’s about people struggling to find their place, so when Srugim hit our shores, it started a slow but steady stream of imports.

The 2008 sitcom Ramzor (Traffic Light) gave us Lo Rotzeh LeHitgaber (3) (I Don’t Want to Grow Up) by Moomi & Useless ID. Hatufim (Prisoners of War) came out the next year and gave us both Hinei Bati HaBayta (4) (I’ve Come Home) as well as the American show, Homeland. And 2013’s hit, Shtisel – Le’an Holchim Pitom Kulam (5) (Where is Everyone Suddenly Going) – turned the slow but steady stream into a (relative) flood. Lehiyot Ita (To Be With Her) made a smaller splash that year, but it’s one of the funniest series to come from Israel. Like Hatufim, it got picked up and remade for American audiences as The Baker and the Beauty.

Fauda (Menasim (6)) first aired in Israel in 2015 and here a year later. How good is Fauda? Good enough that, because the demand was so high, we finally started getting mediocre Israeli shows, too, like HaShoter HaTov (The Good Cop) in amongst the gems that year.

The theme song for Kipat Barzel (Iron Dome), Gam Ki Elech (7) (As I Walk) by Reva L’Africa, is a jazzy, soulful sample of a piece of Psalm 23: Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Sanctifying the secular or secularizing the holy? Once again, yes.

We’ve gotten at least one big hit a year since then: the brilliant Shababnikim (2017); When Heroes Fly (2018); Our Boys (2019); Tehran, Valley of Tears (both 2020); The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem (2021); and Chanshi (2022).

Like Idan Amedi, the actress Ninet Tayeb both stars in When Heroes Fly and sings the theme song, Tayil (8) (Wire). If you’re a fan of Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, you’ll probably love hearing the instrumental Main Theme (9) both for its haunting melody and for the fact that it calls to mind one of the best opening credits of 2022 – American or Israeli. Mi Amor (10) is a bonus track mixing Hebrew and Spanish with beautiful Spanish guitar.

On the theory that everything in music should go to 11, I’ll include two versions of one more song: Shir L’Shalom (A Song for Peace). First performed in 1969 by the Infantry Ensemble of the IDF with Miri Aloni, the song became an anthem for Israel’s peace movement. When Rabin was assassinated, a copy of the lyrics was found in his shirt pocket stained with his blood. The updated Mira Aloni version (11) mixes Hebrew and Arabic – a nice bookend to Fauda. The second is Shiri Maimon singing for IDF troops. Maimon is one of Israel’s biggest pop stars who got her start back in 2003 on the very first season of Kochav Nolad: Israeli Idol. The lyrics, which use language rooted in prayer, fit perfectly with our playlist. Enjoy.

Thu, February 2 2023 11 Shevat 5783