*Prisoners of War*

by on February 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm in Television, Uncategorized | Permalink

This is the Israeli-TV source for the better-known U.S. show HomelandHomeland seems like and indeed is a completely implausible plot line, and that aside about a third of the episodes are downright awful.  It is saved by having one of the most incandescent romances in screen history, namely between Carrie and Brody, a passion which burns so brightly yet collapses immediately into the banal once any hint of peaceful calm is introduced, thereby necessitating certain plot twists which close out season three.

Prisoners of War [Hatufim] avoids these problems and takes away the romantic gloss.  The movie shows torture scenes repeatedly, and even if not with full realism it does not feel like typical Hollywood treatment.  There is more than one captive and the pace is slower and more contemplative.  Parents play a larger role in this story.  The “Carrie figure” has a smaller and less narcissistic profile.  The “Sol figure” remains Jewish.  I have heard Israelis object to what you might call an…unsentimental…portrait of the Israeli state in the series.  And “the first season of Hatufim was Israel’s highest-rated TV drama of all time.”

I recommend this show for most followers of intelligent TV.  You can watch on Hulu or order the discs, season two is on its way in the post from Israel.  The creator, Gideon Raff, plans to produce a season three as well.  Here is a NYT review of the Israeli series.  Here is a Guardian review.  Here is The New Yorker.  Here is a brief trailer.

1 pritesh February 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm
2 Steve Sailer February 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I wonder if the Israeli show about an Israeli prisoner of war converting to Islam was inspired by the 17th century tale of the false messiah Sabbetai Zevi, who, along with his followers, converted to Islam at the demand of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire:


Of course, in the very long run, the Sabbateans undermined Islam’s power in Salonika and Istanbul, furnishing a striking share of the energy behind the secularist revolutions of 1908 onward:


3 Alan February 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

False? By what objective criteria do we decide who is A real messiah?

4 Steve Sailer February 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

The Sultan in Constantinople had an objective measure. He called Zevi in and told him to:

1. Perform a miracle, or

2. Be executed, or

3. Convert to Islam

Zevi chose Door #3.

However, as Paul Johnson recounts in “A History of the Jews,” Zevi’s public relations man, Nathan of Gaza, was undaunted by this challenge to his spinmeister talents:

“Nathan was an outstanding example of a highly imaginative and dangerous Jewish archetype which was to become of world importance when the Jewish intellect became secularized. He could construct a system of explanations and predictions of phenomena which was both highly plausible and at the same time sufficiently imprecise and flexible to accommodate new events when they occurred. And he had the gift of presenting his protean-type theory, with its built-in capacity to absorb phenomena by a process of osmosis, with tremendous conviction and aplomb. Marx and Freud were to exploit a similar capacity…

“The apostasy was transformed into a necessary paradox or dialectical contradiction. Far from being a betrayal, it was in fact the beginning of a new mission to release the Lurianic [Kabbala] sparks which were distributed among the gentiles and in particular in Islam… It meant descending into the realm of evil. In appearance [Zevi] he was submitting to it, but in reality he was a Trojan Horse in the enemy’s camp. Warming to his task, Nathan pointed out that Zevi had always done strange things. This was merely the strangest — to embrace the same of apostasy as the final sacrifice before revealing the full glory of the messianic triumph… Nathan quickly provided massive documentation in Biblical, talmudic and kabbalistic texts. …

“As a result, the Shabbatean movement, sometimes openly, sometimes in secret, not only survived the debacle of the apostasy but continued in existence for over a century.”

Actually, it’s still around and remains fairly influential in Istanbul — the foreign minister of the last pre-Islamist government of Turkey in the late 1990s was a Shabbatean.

5 Nathan Goldblum February 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Don’t read people who only graduated with seconds.

6 Thor February 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm

That Zevi chap should really have hit the books, instead of the pubs, and he would have done better. Imagine that. Only a second.

7 ummm February 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm
8 Ben February 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I completely agree with your assessment Professor Cowen, I only mildly enjoyed homeland but hatufim was an incredibly powerful emotional journey. I feel that the whole situation is portrayed in a more realistic manner, delving into some of the deeper issues and tensions surrounding prisoners of war (specifically in reference to Israel’s actual history with them) and the prisoners difficulty reintegrating into society.

9 The Other Jim February 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm

>one of the most incandescent romances in screen history, namely between Carrie and Brody

Have you seen the show? Because it isn’t clear from this comment.

Carrie is a psychotic drug addict without a friend in the world, who drunkenly throws herself at random people, including the man she is convinced is a terrorist — because the writers desperately needed to make their very shaky plot seem more interesting.

Brody is a married man with a penis and working eyeballs. So he’s game.

It’s an incandescent romance for the ages!

10 derek February 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Well, you seem to have noticed it.

11 dearieme February 13, 2014 at 3:15 pm

The question in Homeland, first series, was who will win? The answer was Hollywood. I had hoped for a happy ending, mind, in the sense of Brody’s brattish daughter dying. No such luck. Brody’s wife was pretty, though. The second series: I gave up in disgust after 20 minutes.

12 Craig February 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Gave up after the swat team member went into the crawlspace by himself and found out why people shouldn’t go after terrorists by themselves. Ah yes, the “everyone split up and we’ll find hime faster” trick.

13 steve February 13, 2014 at 6:05 pm

hatufim season 2 is incredible. If you are a fan of the wire, I highly recommend it.

14 CC February 13, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Wow, when did Tyler get so grumpy? 🙂

That’s quite a harsh review of Homeland.

15 Steve Sailer February 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm

One interesting question is why Israel has had such a small impact on global show biz over the decades. Presumably, some Israelis turn into or back into Americans (e.g., Gene Simmons of Kiss, Natalie Portman), but Wikipedia’s “List of Israelis in Film, TV, radio and stage” is remarkably short on recognizable names for Americans:


I mean, Topol was big in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971 …

16 So Much For Subtlety February 13, 2014 at 10:42 pm

The interesting question is not confined to show business. It is why has Israel had such a small impact on the globe in general. It is kind of sad that Israelis have to be so proud of someone like Amos Oz.

Israel now has a very large share of the world’s Jewish population. So does New York. Which is producing more important figures in almost any field you care to name? Even in the traditional strongholds of Jewish people like science. Israel’s performance in Nobel prizes is actually quite poor.

My theory is that in exile, Jews have been largely excluded from a lot of mainstream employment opportunities. In government for instance. So they have had to find corners where they can do well. In Israel a lot of very talented young people end up in the civil service, in the Army, and volunteering on the land, and so they do not write that one great book that is in them, nor do they achieve that break through that they might have in the West and so on. In America, show business gets the best candidates. In Israel they get the Third Rate.

17 tt February 13, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Jeff Goldberg ? Wolf Blitzer ?

18 So Much For Subtlety February 13, 2014 at 10:38 pm

One obvious reason for the big difference is the reality of the Israeli situation. Israel does torture. Israel suffers from serious terrorist attacks. The US does not torture much and terrorist attacks have been somewhat isolated. I mean 9-11 was huge, but for most people it was huge on TV.

So it looks to me like Homeland simply serves as the usual Hollywood liberal vehicle for expressing contempt of mainstream White America. They can strike a pose because the danger is so small and the issues so irrelevant. Not so for the Israeli writers.

19 Jacob A. Geller February 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I’m about ten episodes into the first season, and I honestly can’t figure out who the “Carrie” figure is. The character traits that make Carrie “Carrie” in Homeland seem to be distributed among three characters. I like it much better this way.

20 Jacob A. Geller February 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm

PS I can’t believe Tyler spelled Saul “Sol,” and that nobody’s called him out on this in comments yet. Come on, Tyler and commenters…

21 John Trevor February 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm



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