In November 2018, I visited Mea Shearim with a group of international journalists and a local guide. Mea Shearim is a Haredi neighbourhood of Jerusalem dating back to the 19th century. We visited it on a Thursday night and had the impression to be in another century and to walk through an old shtetl, a traditional 19th century Jewish town in Eastern Europe. We mainly saw Haredi men walking through the streets, entering a synagogue to pray or a bakery to buy bread for shabbat. Posters on the walls of the district reminded female visitors to act respectfully and dress modestly: long sleeves and no trousers.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews live in almost total seclusion, their everyday life is a mystery to most Israelis. But Shtisel does not potray ultra-Orthodox Jews as exotic creatures in a zoo. It presents them like ordinary people who have problems, dreams, expectations, strengths and weaknesses. They are deeply attached to their religious and social traditions and reject the modern life of secular Jews, but their emotions are similar, especially when it comes to family or relationships. In Shtisel, the viewer can often identify himself with the Haredi people, even if their lifestyle bear hardly any similarities.
NEW NETFLIX SERIES ABOUT ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS
Two years after Fauda, the successful series about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netflix launches a new highly acclaimed Israeli TV series: Shtisel. It is the story of a Haredi family living in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Rabbi Shulem Shtisel, a school teacher aged 66, lives with his youngest son Akiva in a flat in Geula in the centre of Jerusalem. In the evening, they often sit on their little balcony overlooking the streets of their neighbourhood. A year has passed since Dvora, Shulem Shtisel’s wife, died. Even though Shulem loves his youngest son very much, he wants him to finally get married and have a family like all his sons and his daughter Gitty. But Akiva is very special. Even though he works part-time at his father’s school, he dreams of becoming an artist and exhibiting his paintings.
SHTISEL TRAILER WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES
In Israel, the acclaimed television series Shtisel ran from 2013 to 2014. In December 2018, the series was launched internationally on Netflix. The characters of the Shtisel family are humorous, modest, family orientated and a bit meschugge.
INTERVIEW WITH THE SHTISEL ACTORS
Rabbi Shulem Shtisel, Giti Weiss and Akida Shtisel: three main actors of the new Netflix series about ultra-Orthodox Jews gave a very interesting interview in the States.
Follow Michael Aloni (Akiva) on Instagram.
Follow Neta Riskin (Giti) on Instagram.
Read our interview with Shtisel actress Neta Riskin.