Those of us who have been watching the USA Network show "Covert Affairs," also sometimes known as "poor man's Alias, but with Piper Perabo playing gorgeous spy Annie Walker and with a hot blind guy working tech," have been delighted by the occasional appearance of Israeli actor Oded Fehr actually playing an Israeli. The delight has continued as Fehr, playing Mossad agent Eyal Lavin, often breaks out into Hebrew when he's impatient, a detail that is doubly delightful because a) the Hebrew is actually correct and well-pronounced (Fehr, after all, is legit Israeli), and b) the impatience with Americans that causes Lavin to mutter almost to himself in his native tongue is authentic and well-known to many of us who have visited Israel over the years.
There have been three appearances by Eyal Lavin so far over the course of the three seasons - the most recent one a few weeks ago, in "This is Not America" (see trailer embedded below), and it was one of the most Israel-centric television episodes I've seen. From the opening sequence, featuring music by Matisyahu, to the use of Hebrew, both with and without subtitles, and even extending to some cultural truths ("when I get voicemail, I hang up" and "everyone's been touched by terror - it's the reality of life in Israel") there's more Israel education in this one episode of this spy show than there is at most Jewish events. (More commentary after the jump.)
There are some misses - from the overkill of "Annie running against backdrop of Hasidim" to one of the rendez-vous locations, "the cafe on the north side of Zion Square," not even remotely resembling Zion Square (the @covertwriters revealed that the exteriors were shot in Morocco). And the episode doesn't get political about much of anything because it's not about heavy-handed advocacy, it's about advancing the story and the simmering chemistry and trust building between Annie and Eyal. But on the whole, this episode shines as an example of how Israeli culture and Jewish identity can be incorporated to serve a story's narrative.
As I swept Twitter for some chatter about the episode, I found a tweet by CA actor @chrisgorham (who plays aforementioned hot blind CIA operative Auggie) revealing that the reason for the Morocco shoot was because CA is "not allowed to shoot in Israel at the moment :(" (I will have to see if my contacts can shed some light on that.) But kudos to the @covertwriters and @covertaffairs producers in recognizing the electricity of the Eyal and Annie pairing, and in trying to illustrate Eyal's promise that "everything is better in Israel." I hope that some day the cast and crew of Covert Affairs will have a chance to find that out for themselves. And if they need a consultant on their next Jerusalem episode, or a fan-guide to lead them on the ground when they tour Israel, I can probably hook them up.