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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 16, 2009 / 24 Tamuz 5769

One tough Jewess

By Elliot B. Gertel




NCIS' Ziva David is a mixture of wit and quiet charm on the one hand, and deadpan seriousness and defiant chutzpah on the other

The series bluntly portrays the dangers of Muslim terrorists and addresses the tensions that sometimes develop between the Israeli and the American governments as each tries to protect its own interests while being a good and helpful ally


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Four TV seasons have rolled by since NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) imported a female Mossad agent, Ziva David (played with grit by Cote de Pablo), to work for Naval intelligence. She came aboard after a beloved female investigator was murdered by Ziva's brother, or half-brother, who was half Israeli and half Palestinian and a totally crazed terrorist. The head of this dysfunctional family, Ziva's dad, is, in the series, the leader of Israel's hard-nosed intelligence service, Mosad.

Ziva's character has added some "Jewish spice" to the show. In an episode, "Heartland" (October 2008), written by Don McGill, Jesse Stern, and series creator/producer Donald P. Bellisario, about her boss LeRoy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) returning to his hometown of Stillwater, PA., the staff jokes about Gibbs' Superman-like origins, and Ziva adds a reference to the golem legend: "I thought he was molded from clay and had life breathed into him by a group of mystics." The allusion may have been lost on much of the audience, but the episode did testify to what Ziva's character is supposed to add to the show. After all, Gibbs's dad (played by Ralph Waite of The Waltons fame), does recognize that Ziva has an Israeli name and observes: "I'll bet back in Israel you were considered a pretty girl. You step one foot in my country and instantly you are an exotic beauty."

This episode helps us to understand some of Ziva's role, played out over the much hyped final four episodes of the 2008-2009 season. Indeed, Ziva and DiNozo achieved cover status in TV Guide's May 11-17, 2009 issue, which screamed, "NCISexy!"

Yet Ziva, as depicted in this series, is one tough character. The writers insist that she has to be tough, given the dangers to Israeli — and to American — society. The series bluntly portrays the dangers of Muslim terrorists, not to mention American and other criminals of all races, creeds and agendas. It also addresses the tensions that sometimes develop between the Israeli and the American governments as each tries to protect its own interests while being a good and helpful ally.

Ziva is treated sympathetically by the writers and producers, but her character comes across as a mixture of wit and quiet charm on the one hand, and deadpan seriousness and defiant chutzpah on the other. A noteworthy episode about her, entitled "Shalom," was scripted by John C. Kelley with series honcho Bellisario, the first episode of the 2006-7 season. Ziva is lured to the site of an explosion in the D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown. We learn fairly soon that Syrian and Iranian terror cell operatives have conspired to frame her and the Jewish State by making them appear guilty of striking at terrorists (and thus endangering Americans) on American soil.

Interestingly, when Ziva spies a Mossad agent who has been thought dead, Namir Eschal, she lets him walk. Was the implication here that the gut impulse of an Israeli working for American intelligence is to ask no questions and take no prisoners when a former Mossad agent saunters away from a murderous bombing?

Now Kelley and Bellesario do make sure that Ziva proceeds immediately to the Israel security office in D.C. to confront (rudely, of course) the director there. The latter responds by telling Ziva that he knows she has been sleeping with her American co-worker, Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly). "My father has you spying on me?" she asks. The Israeli official tells her that he and her dad attended the funeral of the agent whom she claims to have seen at the explosion site. He says that if that agent is alive and blowing people up, he is doing so on his own and without the authorization of Mossad.

The Israelis want to hold Ziva for her own protection. They tell her that the FBI has issued an espionage and murder warrant for her arrest. Of course, no one is going to hold Ziva against her will, especially her own country and its Jewish men. She knocks out the Israeli guard, flirting with him all the while, and sets off to find the real killers. She knows that she is stigmatized as the (half) sister of a Hamas terrorist killer.

What is moving about this episode is that Ziva trusts Gibbs to help rescue her, though she calls him at the moment when she is tearful and fearful. Though he is far away in Mexico, exiled because of a dispute with new heads of NCIS, Gibbs does ride in — that is, fly in — for that purpose. Of course, as a character observes, Ziva can take care of herself, and, to a large extent, she does.

This series seems to refrain from any black-and-white statements about the motives of Israelis, even bad Israelis. The renegade agent here is clearly a bad Israeli. He is, after all, colluding (and cavorting) with a female Iranian agent in order to discredit and destroy Ziva. The question is raised whether he is motivated in framing her and damaging US-Israeli relations because of some dispute with her father. We never know because the Iranian woman kills him off. But in the final fight scene between Ziva and this woman, in which it almost appears that Ziva has met her match, we learn that Ziva has prolonged the fight because of protocols she has picked up out of respect for her American friends and colleagues, even though she is understandably provoked by the murderous Iranian maiden's rhetoric: "Then kill me. Make your daddy proud, Jew. Your time as an American has made you soft. You should not have thrown your knife away."

At the end of the most current TV season, Ziva was becoming a bit too secretive for everybody's comfort, especially DiNozzo's. Ziva keeps taking furtive phone calls in Hebrew. (Are Hebrew schools to use these episodes to make Hebrew-speaking "cool"?) In the April 28 episode, "Legends, Part One," written by Bellisario and McGill with Shane Brennan, Ziva disappears all too often and tells DiNozzo that she is following a "lead" in a murder case. Actually, she has several rendez vous with an Israeli operative named Michael Rifkin. Michael doe seem to be a special Israeli contact for Ziva, "sent" by her father as liaison or lover or both. She tells Michael that she does not like lying to her partner, DiNozzo. "Your father sends his love," Michael replies. When Ziva asks, "What else does he send?" she says, "Me." Viewers already know that Ziva's father is the head of Mossad, the Israeli CIA.

Ever protective of his colleague and "crush," DiNozzo learns of Rifkin's presence in the United States and becomes disillusioned when Ziva tries to make him believe that Michael is not in this country. Yet video footage of an attack in Morocco places both Michael and Ziva in that country at the same time, when she was doing undercover work for Israel that almost got her killed.

The May 4 episode, "The Legend: Part Two," written by the same team, zeroed in on Rifkin's ruthless acts. First, he kills a terrorist suspect whom he has been tracking from London. When questioned, Ziva tells her colleagues that she has not worked with him in some time. They remind Rivkin that foreign intelligence agencies are not authorized to kill terrorists within US borders. It is clear, however, that Rivkin plans to kill all the suspects. The director of NCIS reminds his crew that in order to learn about the terrorist cell's plans for our country, "We need a breathing suspect, not a dead one."

The new director, Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) is African American, and it is he who recognizes Rivkin's assassination methods as those of Kidon (Hebrew for "bayonet"), the highly-trained unit of Mossad that pursues after Israel's most vicious enemies, beginning with Nazis. DiNozzo cannot tolerate Rivkin's brazen extermination of one, then two members of a terrorist cell. "In my country," Ziva replies, "that would be cause for celebration." DiNozzo reminds her, "Well, you're not in your country and neither is he." DiNozzo wants to know if Ziva would tell him where Rivkin is, if she knew. She replies that she would tell Gibbs. By the end of the episode, we know that Rivkin has been pretending to be the head of the terrorist cell so that he can kill its members. He has also been pretending to be the boyfriend of a young woman from a family of Arab Muslim immigrants, whose terrorist brother Rivkin has killed.

In the May 11 episode, "Semper Fidelis," written by Jesse Stern, DiNozzo confronts Rifkin. The former is a somewhat stereotyped affable Italian-American adventurer and playboy, perhaps a bit rakish. The latter is the stereotype incarnate of the smug, smirking Israeli male. "Ziva prefers darker skin," Rivkin tells Tony." "You can question my feelings for Ziva. Unfortunately, you can't question her feelings for me."

Both men fall into a Twelve O'Clock High bravado. Tony asks, "How does she like being played? Cause I think we both know that this romance isn't kosher." He then challenges, "There's an El Al flight tonight out of Ronald Reagan … [It] lands at Ben Gurion tomorrow evening." To Michael's reply, "I'm not finished spending time with Ziva," Tony responds: "NCIS says you are," meaning, "I say you are."

Meanwhile, back at his post after his exile of the previous season, Gibbs continues to defend Ziva from superiors who believe that she puts Israel, or at least her Mossad-heading father, first. When Tony comes to Ziva's apartment to confront her about internet links to a terrorist from her account, he finds Michael and decides to arrest the latter for killing a terrorist and a U.S. operative. They fight. Returning and seeing some kind of violence in her apartment from her window, Ziva rushes in to find Tony badly injured and Rivkin near dead.

The season cliffhanger, entitled "Aliyah" (the Hebrew word for "going up" to the State of Israel!), broadcast on May 19 and written by David J. North, focused on Ziva and her drive for integrity in all her loyalties. As she rushed in to her apartment-turned-arena, she called into Israeli intelligence for a "forced extraction" for Rifkin — that is, for his being pulled from the country. Instead she followed him to the hospital where she learned he had expired. His last words to her were, "I'm sorry." DiNozzo does not apologize, though he clearly regrets what has happened. Later, there is a lot of discussion between DiNozzo and his colleagues about how he got out of the apartment alive, with Michael being a trained assassin and a most effective one. It is revealed that Rifkin's alcohol level was twice the legal driving limit.

Mossad responds by blowing up Ziva's apartment. (Never rent to an Israeli agent?) Ziva feels obligated to tell the NCIS staff that that type of explosion was, as it were, in Mossad's arsenal of tricks. When she sees Rifkin's body, she utters, in Hebrew, "Barukh Dayan [ha-]Emet — Blessed be the true Judge," the traditional Jewish response to news of a death. Her beloved colleague, the medical examiner, Dr. "Ducky" (David McCallum) tells her that he has asked a rabbi friend to come. She says, "Not necessary. Michael was Jewish by birth, not by practice." Then, mouthing the line of "secular Israelis," here also, perhaps, a line of a grief-stricken person caught between two countries and two cultures, she adds: "Rituals only work for those who need them." Ziva's sense of homelessness is highlighted when Gibbs reminds her that the exploded apartment is her home. "No it's not," she says.

Unit Director Vance informs Gibbs and Co. that the "end game is diplomacy." He happens to be an old friend of Ziva's father, Eli David, who summons the entire unit to Israel. Michael Nouri plays Ziva's dad, who stresses with Gibbs that his daughter is not an American agent but a "liaison officer" of Mossad. Gibbs insists, "She's one of us. So's the guy in there" (referring to DiNozzo, who comes to Israel with a fractured shoulder and other painful injuries after his fight with Rifkin). "So she tells me," Ziva's dad replies.

Despite his defiant and smart aleck attitude when questioned by Eli, Tony shakes Eli with his question, "What kind of father would throw an out of control assassin at his own daughter?" DiNozzo's attack provokes Eli to bear down on the shoulder injured in DiNozzo's fight with Rivkin. Yet he gets Eli to admit that Rivkin was doing his will and may not have been as "out of control" as Ziva thought. Her phone calls and machinations all prove to have been the tactics of one trying to remove a renegade operative, and not of one covering for her father or for his agency — or for Israel.

The season ended with Ziva feeling betrayed that her father did not share all the details of Rivkin's mission with her. Her father provides his African American counterpart, Director Leon Vance, with the information on Rivkin's computer about North African terrorists. (An interesting twist and perhaps a TV first in African-American/Israeli relations.) Ziva is sent on a dangerous mission to Samalia, where she is already a prisoner of a murderous terror cell. We are reminded that Ziva had been sent to America in the first place to kill her half brother, a renegade agent.

What does this say about Israel and about the Israeli family, besides the obvious bid to point to the dangers faced by the Jewish State and by the United States? From the vantage point of the NCIS writers, do Israelis, or at least some Israelis, sacrifice their children to protect them, or purposefully spawn dysfunctional families for the sake of the state? Maybe the NCIS staff will answer these questions next season.

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Contributing writer Elliot B. Gertel, JWR's resident media maven, is a Conservative rabbi based in Chicago. His latest book is "Over the Top Judaism: Precedents and Trends in the Depiction of Jewish Beliefs and Observances in Film and Television". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

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© 2009, Elliot B. Gertel