In Israel's 'The Wire,' Corruption Is the Bad Guy

The new documentary series 'Lod,' set in one of Israel's poorest cities, focuses on the acting mayor. The bad guy is the country's exasperating state of affairs.

One reason the hit crime/police series "The Wire" stood out from other TV shows was the very fact that it was presented as both a crime and police series.

Instead of merely glorify policemen (see: "Homicide: Life on the Street" ) or delve into the world of a crime organization ("The Sopranos" ), "The Wire" persuasively presented a balanced Baltimore in which criminals and policemen coexist.

In the third season of "The Wire," a new variable was introduced - the municipality. Tommy Carcetti's candidacy for mayor offered a glimpse into Baltimore's corridors of power, and "The Wire" invited viewers to track the steps taken by the city's power brokers and determine their influence (or lack thereof ) on policemen and thieves on the city streets.

"Lod," the new documentary series produced by Uri Rosenwaks and Eyal Belhassen, bears some resemblance to "The Wire." It follows Meir Nitzan as he takes over as acting mayor of Lod, and his efforts to rescue the city from the quagmire that threatens to consume it.

The series also focuses on the everyday people of the town - Lod residents who lived there long before Nitzan arrived on the scene, and who will remain after he is gone. We see Arab leaders, pupils in the pre-army academy Maoz, and school drop-outs who took to life on the street. In the beginning, they keep knives for self-defense against thugs; in the end they appear liable to use these weapons for very different reasons.

The drama behind "Lod" in part stems from the fact that it has clear-cut good guys and bad guys. The protagonist in the series is Nitzan, the former mayor of Rishon Letzion, who is bent on setting things straight in Lod. At least in the episodes I've seen, Nitzan is presented as an energetic, determined hero full of humor and self-confidence. As a television character, he is fantastic - tall, humorous, an entertaining mixture of a highly impressive and thoroughly normal character.

Nitzan's nemesis is a little trickier to pinpoint. It's not a person or a crime gang, but rather the situation as a whole. I'd call it "despair," but this would indicate that it is merely a side effect of the real problem.

Rather, Nitzan's antagonist is a stuck and stifled reality. The morass in which Lod is mired is deep, and from this comes an understanding that the situation can't be fixed. Nitzan may walk and talk with determination, but it's pretty clear that he doesn't stand a chance.

This despair which permeates the series is expressed in part by the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. "Land Day" demonstrators march in the street, chanting about freedom for Lod's Arab population; meanwhile, the city's Jerusalem Day parade infuriates Arab residents, and the director of the pre-army academy sends his pupils to knock on the doors of Jewish homes in a show of strength to intimidate Arabs.

The Palestinian-Israeli dispute is fueled by Lod's misery the way bacteria feeds in the sewage tank of a Lod resident, Muhammad al-Amuri. Today, the Middle East dispute looks to be hopeless and everlasting. And, given the way the dispute festers on the streets of Lod, it appears Meir Nitzan can return to Rishon Letzion despondently, knowing he's not to blame.