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'Prisoners of War' on Israeli TV

Israeli television is beginning to deal with the fate of IDF prisoners of war when they are caught by Arab terrorists – and what can come after.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 4/25/2010, 4:45 PM / Last Update: 4/25/2010, 8:04 PM

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Israeli television is beginning to focus on what can happen to IDF soldiers when they are caught by Arab terrorists – and what can come after.

The fictional series, “Prisoners of War,” (called “Hatufim” or “abductees” in Hebrew) revolves around the lives of three IDF reservists who are captured during service in Lebanon. Their fate initially is unknown, and they become symbols to the society from which they came. In their families, they are perceived as something between a misty memory, and an ever-lasting glimmer of hope – until the day 17 years later, when they return.

Only two come back alive. The third returns in a coffin.

The series follows the families, and the two remaining soldiers as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives. The questions asked as part of the program are troubling, as are the answers.

Gideon Raff, the show's creator, told the Los Angeles Times that his research revealed conflicting and complex issues. One soldier released in a prisoner exchange deal told him that for years, people blamed him for every terrorist attack that took place after the swap. Another Israeli POW said bitterly that Israel prefers dead heroes to live returnees.

Former POW David Senesh said recently in an interview that Israeli interrogations were worse than the physical brutality he suffered as a captive in Egypt.

“As a society we're busy with 'bringing the boys back home,'” Raff said. “We're preoccupied with their return and the price, but few turn their thoughts to the day after.” He said he was surprised that no one had considered addressing the issue before, noting there are some 1,500 former POWs in Israel who “live with their captivity every day and can't get rid of it.”

An American remake of the series will be offered in the United States through 20th Century Fox, which cut the deal with the Israeli network Keshet before the “Hatufim” series began shooting. Keshet provides half of the programming on Israel's Channel 2, where the show's seventh episode aired Saturday night.