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October 28, 2011

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 28, 2011 Military drama 'Homeland' taps into American psyche By Naomi Pfefferman The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (Mandy Patinkin), a Jewish character whose Taimudic observations often serve as the conscience of the show. "Homelanff' is the latest American production to be adapted from Israeli televi- sion, which has become a go-to place for Hollywood producers looking for mate- rial--the most successful example thus far having been HBO's psychotherapy drama "In Treatment," based on Israel's "BeTipul." While the first season of"In Treatment" was translated al- most verbatim from its Israeli counterpart, "Homeland"-- also from Keshet Broadcast- ing--required much more transformation. "In Israel, the issue of POWs is in everyone's conscious- ness; Galid Shalit has been at the front and center of a national tragedy," Gordon, 50, said. "So, in 'Hatufim; the homecoming of two longtime captives launches a domestic drama that becomes the heart of the show." For audiences in the United States, however, where the im- mediate threat ofal-Qaeda has appeared to recede, a psycho- logical thriller seemed a better approach. Gordon and Gnsa added a female CIA officer to the mix and created a cat- and-mou6e game between the flawed agent and the former captive. "We posited that the returning soldier had possibly turned i ntoa terrorist and had been sent back here as the tip of the spear of a major attack on U.S. soil," Gordon said. The premise allowed "Homeland" to explore the murkier moral questions lurking uponthe lOth an- niversary of the World Trade Center attacks. "While '24' was born in the wake of 9/11 and represents a kind of national wish-fulfillment, 'Homeland' picks up the story at a time when the nation has experienced a kind of collec- tive amnesia and the fear factor is not nearly as acute," Gordon said. "So we have Carrie, the CIA officer who is holding almost obsessively onto that fear. For that, she is marginalized and anoutcast, rather than regarded as a national hero like Jack Bauer." Gordoh said he intends for the series to ask, but not answer, questions such as: "What do we have to be afraid of now, and how far do we go to protect ourselves? If we're invading the rights of others, who gets to tell us whowe are allowed to watch, and what are the emotional and psy- chological costs to the people who invade our privacy?" "24" was denounced by some critics as Islamophobic andaccused of validating the Bush administration's policies regarding torture. Gordon denies both charges, pointing out that the fictional Bauer grew increasingly introspec- tive following news headlines of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and Guan- tanamo Bay detention camp. Thus far, the Muslim char- acters introduced in "Home- land" have not been savory, but Gordon said the series will introduce a Muslim CIA agent in order to offer a bal- anced perspective. Then there is the chilling sequence that reveals Brocly converted to Islam during his captivity and is praying in secret in his garage. "It's designed to scare us, because of our own prejudices," Gordon said. "It forces you to ask yourself: 'Does the fact that Brody now practices Islam mean that he is now a terrorist?' :"I would caution people to take a beat and wait to watch the story play out, as it did on '24,' and then once the dust settles will be a good time to talk," he said. Gordon began working on "Homeland'! the same day that "24" wrapped, having been captivated by the premise since his agent i:ntroduced him to "Hatu- tim." The popula r Israeli series--which is available in Hebrew online and will premiere its second season in Decmber--isthe brainchild of Gideon Raft, an Israeli graduate of the American Film Institute who directed the English-language films "The Killing Floor" and "Train" before returning Producer and ,writer How- ard Gordon's TV shows have reflected uncannily theAmer- ican psyche since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. "24," the Fox drarfla he helped mold into the Emmy- winning thriller about terror- ist-bustirg super patriot Jack Bauer, premiered just weeks after Septl 11 and became a testosCerone-amped fantasy retort tb ;il=Qaeda. Ten years later, Gordon's acclaimed new Showtime series, "Home- land," created withAlex Gansa and based on the Israeli drama "Hatufim" ("Prisoners of War") debuted not long after the assassination of Osama bin Laden. And the fourth episode of this series about a returning POW aired just days after the release of Israeli captive Gilad Shalit. The POW at the center of "Homeland" is Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), who is rescued after eight years of captivity in Af- ghanistan, hailed as a national hero and trotted out by the military as a poster boy for the war on terror, even as his flashbacks of horrific torture reveal his instability. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is the rogue CIA officer who suspects Brody may have been"turned into" a terrorist agent, and who utilizes illegal means to plant video cameras in his home and even to spy on the awkward sex he attempts with his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin). For these transgressions, Carrie, who herself is hiding a:secret--she suffers from bi- pOlal'disorder--is Confronted I]aer mentm', Saul Berenson Join us for Matzah Ball Soup PAVILION II The family of Sophia Davis Enjoy Beef Brisket Zena Sulkes leads Jewish Discussion Weekly Jewish ConversaUon with Zena Sulkes Weekly Happy Hour hosted by The Jewish Pavilion l]  Monthly Shabbat Service |  iVtonthly Bagels and Lox Luncheon t,Special Celebrations and Meals during High Holy Holidays M ah Jongg Games Weekly  V:lsitJng Jewish Chaplain and Volunteers from The JewishPavilion Offering Assisted Living, Rehabilitation Care and Skilled Nursing uRT&0000ovE Where Hospitality is Truly a Way of Lifd 1301 W. Maitland Blvd. Maitland, FL 32751 (Located one block from I-4, near the Jewish Community Center) 407-645-3990 www, Assisted Living Facility License No. 8447, Skilled Nursing Facility 1635096 I to Israel with "Prisoners of War." "There had never been an Israeli series, ever, that dealt with .what happened to POWs after their release," the 39-year-old Raft said of his inspiration. "Even when the subject arose in newspapers or books, it always focused on the trauma of captivity or the obsession with bring- ing our boys home, not how they [fare] the day after their return. There are about 1,500 POWs who did come back, but we know very little about their .lives after captivity." Anticipating flak for tack- ling such a taboo subject when soldiers, including Shalit, remained impris- oned, Raff meticulously researched the psychologi- cal aftermath of captivity, which, he said, applies as Showtime Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in "Homeland.' much to POWs held in Viet- nam as in the Gaza Strip. He said he interviewed 10 Israeli ex-prisoners, including Hezi Shai, who was imprisoned for three years after being ambushed during the first Lebanon War. "Hatufim" incorporates what Raft learned from his research; the ex-POWs in both shows display an inability to bond with family members, and other symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder, such as a need to sit on a floor in the dark in order to feel safe, or sleep on the floor, as they did in captivity. In "Hatufim," the former captives must deal with the additional problem of searing guilt--knowing that thousands of terrorists who may go on to commit other atrocities have been released in exchange for their own freedom. While some reviewers saw "Hatufim" as exploiting POWs' pain forentertainment purposes, Raff disagrees, insisting, "We dealt with the subject with the utmost respect. "It would have been pre- sumptuous on my part to think that I'd do a series to help rescue Gilad Shalit," Raff added. "But I do wish that one day the show will be relevant for him." "Homeland" airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on Showtime. Naomi Pfefferrnan is arts and entertainment editor at The JeuNsh Journal of Greater Los Angeles, from which this article was reprinted by permission. Algorithm distinguishes contributors to OM Testament TEL AVIV--In both Jew- ish and Christian traditions, Moses is considered the author of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Scholars have furnished evi- dence that multiple writers had a hand in composing the text of the Torah. Other books of the Hebrew Bible and of the New Testament are also thought to be com- posites. However, delineat- ing these multiple sources has been a laborious task. Now researchers have developed an algorithm that could help to unravel the different sources that contributed to individual books of the Bible. Professor Nachum Dershowitz of Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science, who worked in collaboration with his son, Bible scholar Idan Dershowitz of Hebrew University, and professor Moshe Koppel and Ph.D. student Navot Akiva of Bar- Ilan University, says that their computer algorithm recognizes linguistic cues, such a.s word preference, to divide texts into probable author groupings. By focusing exclusively on writing style instead of subject or genre, Nachum Dershowitz and his col- leagues sidestepped several methodological hurdles that hamper conventional Bible scholarship. These issues include a potential lack of objectivity in content-based analysis and complications caused by the multiple genres and literary forms found in the Bible'includ- ing poetry, narrative, law and parable. Their research was presented at the 49th Annual Conference of the Association for Computa- tional Linguistics in Port- land, Ore. According to professor Dershowitz, the software searches for and compares details that human scholars might have difficulty detect- ing, such as the frequency of the use of "function" words and.synonyms. Such details have little bearing on the meaning of the text itself, but each author or source often has his own style. This could be as innocuous as an author's preference for us- ing the word "said" versus "spoke." To test the validity of their method, the researchers randomly mixed passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and asked the computer to sepa- rate them. By searching for and categorizing chapters by synonym preference, and then looking at usage of common words, the com- puter program was able to separate the passages with 99 percent accuracy. The software was also able to dis- tinguish between "priestly" materials--those dealing with issues such as religious ritual--and "non-priestly" material in the Torah, a categorization that is widely used by Bible scholars. While the algorithm is not yet advanced enough to give the researchers a precise number of probable authors involved in the writing of the individual books of the Bible, professor Dershowitz says that it can help to identify transition points within the text where a source changes, potentially shedding new light on age-old debates. Part of a new field called "digital humanities," com- puter software like professor Dershowitz's is being devel- oped to give more insight into historical sources than ever before. Programs al- ready exist to help attribute previously anonymous texts to well-known authors by writing style, or uncover the gender of a text's author. But the Bible presents a new challenge, says professor Dershowitz, as there are no independently attributed works to which to compare the Biblical books. The Torah algorithm may also provide new informa- tion about other enigmatic source material, such as the many pamphlets and treatises of unknown com- position that are scattered throughout history. And because the software can identify subtle linguistic cues, it is able to uncover differences within mere percentage points, a feat that has never before been possible. "If the computer can find features that Bible scholars haven't noticed before, it adds new dimen- sions to their scholarship. That would be gratifying in and of itself," says professor Dershowitz.