Homeland, (bitter)sweet Homeland
The visit to Israel by the 'Homeland' cast turned the country into a banal oriental symbol.
I was excited when I learned that the makers of the “Homeland” television series had arrived in Israel and were shooting scenes for the second season (now being broadcast).
Double and redoubled Zionist pride seized me: here was an American series that was conceived in Israeli brains − even though any connection between the Israeli source (“Hatufim,” or “Prisoners of War”) and the American version is extremely loose − and now there would be Israeli locations, too.
With a little luck, maybe even Israeli actors: Claire Danes flounces into a Tel Aviv nightclub, Mandy Patinkin visits the Western Wall. If we can’t skedaddle over there, at least they are coming to us.
But then I watched the first episode and was overwhelmed with disappointment. Despite moments when a few local actors − Yair Lotan, Yael Sharoni, Clara Khoury − popped up, it turns out that we were again used not for our own sake but to double as Beirut, at the old city hall on Bialik Street in Tel Aviv and in the Jaffa flea market.
We want to think that selling ideas for television series will exalt Israel’s name among the Gentiles. But the American machine chews everything and swallows and regurgitates the cliches it’s used to: a chase in a Middle Eastern country always takes place in a crowded market; the American embassy is always located in an elegant building bearing colonial chic.
Maybe people who have never been to Israel won’t notice the difference, and maybe there really is no great difference between Tel Aviv and Beirut. But for a moment, I felt like a Chinese person who sees someone walking about proudly with a mysterious tattoo which for him signifies “freedom” or “courage” but actually says “sweet and sour chicken.”