Concerts, comedy nights, film screenings, exhibitions or open-door days at synagogues: The 35th Days of Jewish Culture festival, which takes place in Berlin from September 10-18, showcases the diversity of modern Jewish life in the German capital.
The event opens on Saturday with a concert by Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Amedi, probably best known outside of Israel for his role in the Netflix series “Fauda.”
‘Fauda’: Israel’s hit action series
Amedi joined the cast of the action series at the beginning of the second season. After the TV series was picked up by Netflix in 2016, “Fauda” became an international hit. The fourth season will be released later this year.
“Fauda,” which means “chaos” in Arabic, follows a team of undercover operatives from the Israel Defense Forces as they track down Palestinian terrorists. Amedi portrays Sagi Tzur, a new recruit in the team of lead protagonist Doron Kavillio, played by the series’ co-creator, Lior Raz.
Raz and his co-writer, journalist Avi Issacharoff, wrote “Fauda” based on their real-life experiences serving in the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) special forces unit.
While the series is unmistakably told from an Israeli perspective, which has led to some criticism about its politics, it has also been widely praised for providing depth and humanity to the characters from both sides of the conflict — which might explain why “Fauda” is also successful in many Arab countries.
Idan Amedi also believes that portraying the weaknesses of the protagonists is what makes “Fauda” special. For the viewers, it offers “a new way to see things; to see both sides struggling, but also both sides crying and dealing with all aspects and all colors of life,” he told DW. “And I think it’s interesting also for us [Israelis] to see the other side as human beings, not as enemies.”
Even though the actors portray scenes of extreme violence, Amedi above all sees the role as a “dream come true” for him because, as he says, “every little boy dreams to become an action star.”
An Israeli star is born
Before becoming an actor, Idan Amedi gained fame in Israel as a pop star.
His breakthrough came with his participation in the talent show “Kochad Nolad” (A Star Is Born) in 2010, where he performed “Pain of Warriors,” a song he had written during his military service with the combat engineering corps.
The song, which refers to nightmares, bloodied uniforms and a soldier’s longing for their loved ones, became a hit in Israel, where military service is mandatory and the radio network under IDF authority is also very popular.
He has since released four albums, with another one on the way. He mainly focuses on his music career, but currently has other acting projects beyond “Fauda.” “I cheat on my music once in a while,” he says with a charming smile.
One of his songs, “Menasim” (Trying), which combines Hebrew and Arabic, was used as the theme of “Fauda.” The use of both languages reflects one of the aspects of the series, as the undercover agents need to learn Arabic and the habits of the Palestinians to blend in.
“Language is like a bridge,” says Amedi. “So I believe that when we combine those languages, we can combine our cultures; we can connect and become closer.”
Amedi, who was born on February 19, 1988, grew up in Jerusalem. Here too, the mix of cultures helped him develop as an artist. He realized when he started traveling elsewhere how “unique and open-minded” the city is, as “the center of every big religion.” Growing up there allowed him to understand Arabic and English and the culture of these religions, he adds.
Both sides of his family come from Kurdistan, from Iraq and Iran, and Amedi also celebrates his Jewish-Kurdish roots by singing songs in Kurdish at his concerts.
Love and politics
Many of Idan Amedi’s songs are romantic pop. But, since he’s Israeli, seemingly light songs about love and loss are always about more than heartbreaks.
“Here in Israel, love and politics are everyday routine. It all belongs together; it’s all one big salad,” he says. Whether his family or his Arab friends, they all know that any day can start with a missile attack that could change everything.
But despite the conflicts, as Amedi points out, Israel ranked 9th in the 2022 UN-sponsored World Happiness index: “We know how to appreciate life and how to live every moment like it’s going to be our last — I know this sounds big. But it gives a lot of meaning to life.”
He is now sharing a piece of his unique culture in Berlin, through his concert at the Days of Jewish Culture. The event, held in a synagogue, brings about a “blend of emotions,” he says. It’s very special to him to be singing about his home, wife and friends in this context: “Because of the history, all Israelis and all Jews have a love-hate relationship with Germany. But you can’t avoid it. You can’t avoid the history.”