Since we can’t go out and travel or even go to the movies these days because of the Coronavirus crisis, we though that we would give you a list of Israeli television shows to binge watch over the holiday break.
Editor’s Note: These programs are offered on different streaming platforms, but access varies from one country to the next. If you speak Hebrew, some of these shows can be found online at the Israeli television channels’ websites, but with subtitles.
Hatufim – Prisoners of War
This show was the basis for the American hit Homeland; although, the latter version went in a completely different direction. In the Israeli show two soldiers return home after spending 17 years as prisoners of a terrorist group. The whereabouts of a third soldier are in doubt.
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Unlike Homeland, Hatufim centers more on the PTSD the freed soldiers suffer, how they cope with returning home and how the people in Israel treat them, than on spy game intrigue. But there is a continuing story line connected to the still missing third soldier which gets resolved at the end of the program’s two seasons.
Expect of much more serious and believable story than what was offered in the American show.
The name of this program, Srugim, literally means “knitted.” It refers to the knitted more colorful skull caps worn by the men of Israel’s modern-orthodox national religious community. This is in contrast to the all-black ones worn by the non-Zionist ultra-orthodox community.
Srugim is a drama series which deals with the life of single religious men and women living in Jerusalem. Think of Friends as a drama about young orthodox Jews. Unlike their counterparts on American TV, the protagonists here do not jump from one another’s beds, nor do they party all the time. This is because they are orthodox Jews.
Expect an honest portrayal of what life is like for people who are orthodox, have begun their professional lives, moved out of their family’s homes, but are still single.
If Srugim is about modern orthodox Jews living in today’s Jerusalem, Shtisel shows us how the ultra-orthodox there live. The show centers on the story of one family, the Shtisels. The youngest son is still single. As a still unmarried artist he has difficulty socially within his community.
Shtisel is an honest and fair portrait of the ultra-orthodox. This is in stark contrast to many of the other programs and documentaries available to view which all seem intent on showing only the darker side of this community.
Even if you have never seen Fauda, you have probably at least heard about the show. Fauda is Arabic for “Chaos.” The drama is in both Hebrew and Arabic and portrays Israeli undercover operatives as they infiltrate terrorist groups like Hamas.
Critics love the show and much has been written about how it is watched by both Israelis and Arabs. Much has been written about how it became a bridge between Arabs and Jews. For example, the new peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is allowing people there to come out of the closet, so to speak, and admit openly that they have already been watching Israeli TV shows on streaming services like Netflix for years.
Valley of Tears
Israel suffers from PTSD over the 1973 Yom Kipur War to this very day. Valley of Tears shows you why. It spares us recreations of what went on among the Israeli generals and politicians like Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir as they dealt with the shock over defeats in the first days of the war. Instead it focuses on several groups of soldiers fighting in the Golan Heights as the outset of the fighting.
Most of what is depicted is realistic and some of it is based on true stories. One story line deals with what actually happened at the IDF outpost on Mt. Hermon on the Syrian border. A small Israeli force was overcome by a massive Syrian assault with no possibility of reinforcement.
Several tank battles are also depicted with spine chilling accuracy. Do not expect any attempts here at glorifying the Israeli soldier in a time of war. Instead expect realism.
Hashoter Hatov — The Good Cop
Hashoter Hatov (The Good Cop) is an Israeli comedy series focusing on one street cop Danny Konfino, played brilliantly by Yuval Semo. Anyone in Israel will tell you how unrecognizable he is when appearing in local television commercials and sketch comedy programs.
Danny Konfino is a police officer with a temper serving in a suburban police station. Part of his anger stems from the fact that he must live at home with his parents and has a criminal for a brother. He also has to deal with a clueless self-important commander who is somewhat reminiscent of Michael Scott from The Office.