The second season of the historical drama The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem will debut on Netflix on 14 July 2023. All 16 episodes of season two will be available in major markets including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Spain, picking up on the involving story of three generations of the Sephardic Ermosa family in 1940s Jerusalem.

Newlyweds Luna (Swell Ariel Or) and David (Israel Ogalbo) experience a growing strain on their relationship once they enter a bohemian British circle, Gabriel (Michael Aloni) will search for the son he never knew he had from his affair with Rochel (Yuval Scharf) and the family shop will hit hard times, forcing Rosa (Hila Saada) and the women of the family to take matters into their own hands. Ephraim (Tom Hagi) will become even more radical in his actions putting the whole family in danger, all while the threat of World War II will become critical.

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a colourful, passionate, and tragic family story interwoven with Judeo-Spanish traditions and the history of a nascent country. The female characters are strong, decisive and couragous. Each of them uses her strength in another way: Mercada uses her ruthfulness to avoid scandals and bankruptcy in her family, Rosa’s servility helps her to survive as a 10-year-old orphan and later her obedience helps her to tolerate the marriage with her husband who doesn’t love her; and Luna’s beauty helps her not only to seduce men, but also to be admired by women and to enter a glamorous English bohemian circle in Jerusalem, which was part of Palestine at the time.

“Luna is a young woman who escapes from her life in Jerusalem,” said Swell Ariel Or, who plays Luna Ermosa, the titled Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, in an interview with i24News. “Fashion, make-up and style help her to overcome reality, the war, family problems.” But the young actress also admits that she learnt a few things from Luna: “I’ve learnt to accept my femininity as a very powerful tool. A woman shouldn’t feel ashamed of her beauty.”

In Season 2, the Ermosa saga continues with glamour and war. David doesn’t feel as comfortable as his wife Luna in the bohemian circle of the English soldiers.

Rosa has had a hard life. She was a ten-year-old orphan living with her five-year-old brother Ephraim in the streets, when she began to work as a cleaner in the homes of English soldiers in Jerusalem. At the age of 16, she married Gabriel Espinosa, a man who respected her but never loved her. Rosa hates the English from the time of the Mandate, ever since her youngest brother Ephraim went in hiding for years as a member of the Lehi underground organization. Her relationship with Luna, her eldest daughter, is strained. “I wasn’t born a princess like you, with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Rosa says in the book.

The series, which premiered in Israel on 7 June 2021, is based on the number one international best seller The Beau­ty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi. The narrator of the book is Gabriela, Luna’s daughter, who was named after her grandfather Gabriel Ermosa. Some of the book’s characters have not been included in the Netflix series, for instance Gabriel’s sister Allegra or Rosa’s brother Nissim who became a wealthy man in the United States.

It is no coincidence that The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, a novel that celebrates women’s strength, intuition and courage, was written by a woman. Sarit Yishai-Levi (76) was not only a very successful journalist, but also the first Israeli to interview Palestinian political leader Yasser Arafat in 1982 (Lebanon War).

Rachelika (Eli Steen), who was named after Rosa’s late mother, Rachel, is quite the opposite of her elder sister Luna. While Luna’s features resemble Gabriel’s, Rachelika looks like her mother. Moreover, she’s a good student with no interest in fashion, make-up and glamour. As a teenager who’s very interested in politics, Rachelika soon becomes an activist of a nationalist movement, which puts her family at risk.

Gabriel Ermosa (Michael Aloni) could not marry Rochel (Yuval Scharf), the love of his life, because an Ashkenazi bride would have brought down scandal and shame on the Ermosa family. The Sephardim were opposed to marriage with Ashkenazim.

Rochel, the Ashkenazia from Mea Shearim, and Gabriel, the Spaniol from Ohel Moshe, could not get married when they were young. Their families didn’t allow it. But they spent a night together and Rochel got pregnant, which Gabriel ignored.

Mercada Ermosa (Irit Kaplan), the matriarch who runs her family with an iron fist, witnesses the decline of her family’s business due to the incompetence of her son Gabriel. Her father was a wealthy merchant who had brought his son-in-law Raphael into the business after he had married Mercada.

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem won four awards at the Israeli TV Academy Awards, including Best Daily Drama.



Photos: Courtesy of Michael Brikman

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