8 TV Shows That Illuminate Israeli History, Culture and Politics – Kveller
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8 TV Shows That Illuminate Israeli History, Culture and Politics

These shows can help us better understand the current moment after October 7.


A still from "The Lesson"

It will be a while before Israeli TV reflects the post-October 7 reality, though maybe not that long. The most popular show in the country, “Kupa Rashit,” or “Checkout,” has already released a post-October 7 episode, and “Shababnikim,” one of the most popular shows in the country, is also already filming a new season. As more and more TV comes out, the events of October 7, as they has with every part of Israeli society, will undoubtedly enter the writers’ rooms. The war in Gaza will also change the way Israeli TV is perceived.

Yet at this moment, there are already plenty of shows that help illuminate the context of October 7 and the ensuing war. These shows are for anyone who wants to better understand Israeli history, society and politics.

“Birth of a Conflict” (ChaiFlicks)

On ChaiFlicks, this excellent documentary TV show counters the misconception that the troubles between Israel and Palestine started in 1948. Using varied expert testimony from historians and little seen before archival documents, it explores how the British mandate and colonialism primed the powder keg that is today’s Middle East and Israel/Palestine.

“Fauda” (Netflix)

Lior Raz is already planning for the next season of “Fauda” to be very different. “We can’t tell this story like we wanted to tell it,” the actor and showrunner said in an interview post-October 7. “We try to show the other side and its life. In the next season, it won’t be so interesting for us to show the humanity of the other side; the next season will be more militant, more tough.”

But the four seasons of “Fauda,” which are streaming on Netflix, remain an interesting document of what happens when someone from Israel tries to tell a story about the conflict that looks at the reality from both sides, through the army unit of Mist’aravim, covert operatives who work within enemy territory.

“Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” (Netflix)

This show paints the rich and complex Jewish life present in the land of Israel before the country’s founding, starting in 1919 and spanning several decades. The period soap tells the story of one Sephardi family, the Ermosa family, cursed when it comes to love, and tries to recreate Jewish life, specifically the rich, Sephardic Jewish life, in Jerusalem during that time. It shows the race relations between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, Jews and Muslims, and the British forces who rule the city during the British Mandate. It’s also an ode to Sephardi culture, food and Ladino.

“Commandments” (Topic)

The complex reality of mandatory IDF service in Israel is one that many people outside the country seem to not really understand. This show, about a group of Orthodox soldiers who volunteer for service, despite the consternation from their families and communities, won’t really tell you all you need to know about that reality, but it does illuminate some aspects of it, with compelling complex characters and stories.

“Our Boys” (Max)

The events of October 7 remain, and will always be, a unique horror for Israelis. And yet, in this show, which follows the killing of three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion that led to the kidnapping and killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, are traces of the same forces that we see in images out of Israel today, with many familiar players, from Benjamin Netanyahu, to murders and kidnappings by Hamas and Israeli settler violence.

“Checkout” (ChaiFlicks) 

This show takes place inside an Israeli supermarket, a sort of melting pot of all the elements of Israeli society. “Checkout” may be an idealistic, saccharine portrait of a reality we wish existed, but it is the show that Israelis have found most comfort in at times of strife. They even released post October 7 episodes to provide an extra familiar cocoon.

“The Lesson” (ChaiFlicks) 

If you want to understand the younger generation of Israelis, this show is a fascinating, devastating document about how both social media, as well as a growing sense of nationalism and anti-Arab sentiments, can take hold and derail lives. The show, about a conflict between a student and a teacher that starts when the former calls for Arabs to be banned from her local pool, is also really pertinent to how social media outrage can get out of hand.

“Valley of Tears” (Max)

The Yom Kippur War is a tragedy that many people have referred back to when thinking about this current moment, and this excellent show eloquently captures the price of war that the Jewish nation keeps paying through its youth.

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