Faith and spirituality are important in the lives of many Israelis, but it’s
rare to hear someone talking about it, except in terms of strict religious
The multi-part series, My Faith, which runs on Saturdays at
10:40 p.m. (and which is sometime preempted by coverage of demonstrations and
other news events), is the brainchild of Ori Gruder (who made the film under the
pseudonym Or Yashar, which means “Straight Light” in Hebrew), an Israeli
director and cinematographer.
“I started to work on the series five years
ago,” says Gruder. “It’s been a long trip.”
The inspiration for it came
from the fact that Gruder, who was born into a secular Israeli family, became
religious himself. But Gruder is not one of the interviewees in the
“I don’t like to film myself,” he explains. Instead, “I looked
for people who could answer my questions.”
These people include a wide
cross-section of Israelis, from every end of the religious spectrum. Among the
betterknown subjects are Hadar Galron, a half-British, half-Moroccan stand-up
comic, actress, playwright and screenwriter; Simcha Jacobovici, a controversial
Canadian/Israeli archeologist; and Yossi Ghinsberg, an Israeli-born,
internationally known motivational speaker whose outlook changed drastically
after he almost died on a trip to the Amazon.
The series also includes
homeopathic healers, skydivers, teachers, doctors, scientists and dozens of
other Israelis from all walks of life. Many of the participants are English
speakers or have spouses who are, and speak all or part of the time in English.
It was filmed all over Israel and the world, including in the US, India and
BUT ALL the participants have much in common, says
“The single thing we looked for was someone who lives his
beliefs. It’s all about the relationship with God, if you have one, if you
don’t. I asked them, ‘How is your relationship with God?’ People talk about it,
the ups and downs.
It’s like the relationships you have with the person
you love, with your children, with your friends.”
Gruder took inspiration
from a line from a Bob Dylan song, which is quoted in the series. Gruder
paraphrases it: “You must serve somebody. It could be God or the devil, but you
must serve somebody.”
While the idea of such a film may not surprise you,
this is quite unusual and adventurous programming for the government- run
While the networks allowed Gruder a great deal of freedom in
the series, “they told me, ‘No rabbis.’ They didn’t want it to be about
religious observance,” and wanted to steer clear of the usual religious- secular
In addition, says Gruder, “We wrote rules for ourselves: No
politics. People can say what they want about God, but no
Producers toyed with the idea of Gruder’s including
Christians, Muslims and Buddhists among his subjects, but he chose not
“I said I am a Jew. This is for me, it’s my character. Everybody can
speak about God, but I felt people from other religions need to make their own
films, tell their own stories,” he says.
Interviews were cut from the
final series because “some people said the same things, basically,” and because
some of the subjects seemed too extreme and cultish.
Gruder thinks it is
fitting that it has been broadcast at this moment, with social-justice protests
and the release of Gilad Schalit dominating the headlines.
“I think it
makes sense that the network decided to run the series around the same time as
the social protests.
When people stand up together and protest, saying
they don’t believe in the government. The series is on belief, the series is on
who runs the world.... People want to take the power into their own hands, but
we don’t control everything.
But we can influence it.”
He sees a
sign of redemption in the freeing of Schalit.
“We in Judaism believe in
the idea of a happy end,” he says.