Avi Issacharoff dreamed of writing a TV show the same way he dreamed of being Michael Jordan when he was in college playing basketball. But what he thought was an unlikely career, turned out to be much closer than he imagined.
The well-known Israeli journalist and author did add television creator and writer to his already impressive resume with the acclaimed Israeli show Fauda – Arabic for chaos – which is streaming on Netflix. Issacharoff will be the keynote speaker at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas Annual Event on June 11 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis (1300 Nicollet Mall).
Fauda details an elite team of Israeli special forces operators hunting down a Hamas terrorist. Issacharoff created the show with the extensive information he learned as a journalist.
“With the years that had passed, I had information and that’s an extensive asset,” said Isaacharoff. “Very few people in Israel – or the world – have the access to meet with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah. Or to see how Israeli Special Forces are operating.”
The show came about through Issacharoff’s friendship with Lior Raz, himself a former special forces operator who became an actor after his military time. He’s the lead actor in the show, but the show isn’t an autobiographical depiction of Raz or his team.
When Issacharoff comes to Minneapolis next month, he’ll talk about the show – season 2 starts shooting soon – but also his career as a journalist closely following the Israeli-Palestinian political situation. He writes for Times Of Israel as the website’s Middle East analyst. From 2005-12, he was the Palestinian and Arab affairs correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He is a former correspondent with Israel Radio where he won the 2002 “Best Reporter” award for his coverage of the Second Intifada. He has written and directed short documentary films broadcast on television in Israel.
Along with Amos Harel, he wrote “The Seventh War – How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians.” A year later the book won. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled “34 Days – The Story of the Second Lebanon War.” Each book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel.
“We wanted to show both perspectives – it wasn’t an ideological decision, it was a script-writing decision. We wanted to show the other side also,” he said. “Back then, we wanted to do a good show. It became something much bigger.”
Despite the success now, it was a tough sell getting the show picked up by Israeli TV.
“No one told us why, but it’s a show about the conflict. Who wants to sit at home and watch a show with more than half in Arabic,” Issacharoff said of the show that is in Hebrew and Arabic in Israel, and over-dubbed in English and English subtitles on Netflix. “That was their calculation, but everyone loves the show. Israelis Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, left, right, secular.”
Isaccharoff said he isn’t breaking ground as a journalist/TV creator, citing David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun crime beat reporter who created HBO’s The Wire, and Mark Boal, the magazine writer who was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq before writing and producing Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker.
“The show is opening a new direction,” he said. “People know me as a journalist and scriptwriter. People are enthusiastic here about it. And I’m happy to hear people are watching abroad.”
In real life, Isaccharoff said he isn’t optimistic about the Israelis and Palestinians negotiating for peace.
“You see the gap between the leaderships. You see the gaps between the people. Both sides are pulling in different directions. Instead of believing in peace, they’ve lost their hope,” he said. “I don’t see a political horizon. This is why it’s mission impossible.”
The Annual Event will also honor Diane and Ron Fagen, founders of the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum in Granite Falls, Minn., for their dedication and commitment to building a permanent tribute to the men and women of the “Greatest Generation,” including the only Holocaust exhibit of scale in Minnesota. The museum is home to a pristine collection of fully operational, active aircraft and vehicles from World War II. Also featured are fine art, bronze sculptures, interactive multimedia displays, and an ever-growing library.
“I have always been deeply moved by Diane’s and Ron’s generosity and dedication to curating, displaying, and teaching about the history of the United States’ participation in World War II via the museum,” said JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs, who will also be honored at the event for his 10 years of leadership of the organization. “The JCRC has been privileged to partner with the Fagens and the museum on a number of different occasions. I admire the generosity of spirit demonstrated by the Fagens and I look forward to sharing their story with our community on June 11.”