As I write a column each week, I strive to view the world around me through Jewish eyes, and guide readers to relate to the Jewish values that shape my worldview, and which I hope will increasingly impact on the approach of readers.
Generally, as I pen musings, the topic is culled from current events. More often than not the topics are of importance throughout our country, and not only for the Columbus community, where I am officially assigned as an “examiner.”
As I examined the world this past few days, and strove to view it through Jewish eyes, nothing moved me more than the culmination of a two part episode of the CBS drama/whodunnit NCIS.
There are not many shows on television that I watch avidly. NCIS is one of them. I am amazed more often than not by the respect the show creators usually show for Judaism and for Israel as they depict one of the show’s key personalities, Ziva David, an NCIS special agent played by Cote de Pablo. Although her name suggests that de Pablo is of South American extraction, I am always moved by her impeccable Israeli accent. Occasionally I am mesmerized when I hear her rattle off Hebrew phrases. Where on most shows I find that Hebrew is battered, on this show the pronunciation is accurate, and the syntax is typical, current Israeli slang. I am also impressed that the show usually portrays Israel positively. David, a former Mossad agent, has become an equal to the other NCIS team and is accepted not only for her skills, but for her extensive linguistic ability.
The show does not whitewash characters just because they are Israeli. David’s father, who until this last episode was the head of Mossad, the Israeli spy service, is shown to have a Jewish soul. If he is not observant, there are enough remembrances of him saying a kiddush (Friday night prayer over wine that marks the Sabbath as sacred time), wearing a talit (prayer shawl) or a kippah (skullcap). Yet at the same time the show has shown that spycraft at times require unethical behavior, cold blooded killing of enemies and disposal of their bodies, and determinations that at times fly in the face of most person’s sense of right and wrong. Certainly it was a source of tension in the show between the Davids. At the same time, though, the daughter never failed to treat her dad respectfully, even when she was put out by his actions. There was a sense that the dad never failed to seek his daughter’s best interest, even when her current work for an American law enforcement agency was in direct opposition to his desires as an Israeli spy.
No doubt the show had its share of evil Israeli and Arab spies over the course of its broadcast history.
The past two episodes gave this writer pause.
In these episodes David senior is murdered in cold blood in a fly by shooting. Shot with him is the wife of the NCIS director as she, a gentile, was serving her husband and the Davids a carefully prepared, traditional Shabbat dinner.
In this last episode David senior had come to Washington ostensibly to see his daughter. It was unveiled that the trip was truly a cover for him to meet with a personal friend from his youth, the head of Iran’s spy service. The risk to both men’s lives demanded the subterfuge. The men still held onto their government’s positions, but the men wanted to get together not only because they had been childhood friends, but because they believed that they could cooperate to establish a basis for peace between Iran and Israel. Professionally they could not trust each other, but personal connections enabled them to hold out the olive branch.
After the murder there was fear that the Iranian was behind the killing. It was suggested that the murder could have been cause to elevate hostilities in the Middle East, and that the Iranian may have been acting dishonestly.
As the show was brought to its conclusion with the Iranian also being killed, it was recognized that David’s murder was indeed the act of another Israeli. (If you get a chance to watch the show I won’t give it away here).
That ending to me is a source of angst. It was unclear if the killing was the act of a deranged individual seeking self promotion, or if it was a matter of Mossad policy, or perhaps worse, the act of the Israeli government.
In bringing the episode to that conclusion, it had me shaking my head. Were the producers trying to suggest that peace in the Middle East will never be easy to attain, or were they going even further in their innuendo and suggesting that Israel is only going through motions and does not really seek peace with its Moslem neighbors?
If the latter I am truly scared. For years the news department s of most national networks have favored the Palestinian viewpoint in the struggle. Yet, Iran, even in its wild statements regarding Israel, had more often than not been cast as a pariah.