Ultra-Orthodox Women’s Films and Their Audience

Jan. 28 2020

Many of Israel’s ḥaredi communities frown on television, the Internet, and moviegoing, but even some of the most strictly observant make an exception for a relatively new cinematic genre: movies made by ḥaredi women, shown to exclusively female audiences, featuring all-female casts. To a certain brand of secular feminist filmmaker, this might sound like a utopia, but that is far from the intention of the filmmakers or the taste of their audiences. Moreover, these movies are commercial successes within their circumscribed audiences: tickets sell out almost immediately for most new releases. Diana Bahur Nir writes:

Z’khut ha-Shtikah, Hebrew for the right to remain silent, [was released in December] by the female ḥaredi filmmaker Dina Perlstein. The movie, described in the brochure as a “riveting and groundbreaking drama,” has been granted rabbinic approval. Shot in Israel and France, it follows the story of a French journalist who arrives in Israel on assignment and builds tight bonds with a family she was sent to cover. That is—with the women of the family.

Ḥaredi movies promote values that are compatible with the principles of Orthodox Judaism: respecting one’s parents, living morally, and sanctifying life. Some of these movies focus on Jewish identity and the connection to God as central themes.

Ḥaredi cinema has been around for a decade and a half, and it is evolving [constantly]. The change is evident in the topics it deals with, in the production quality, and in the boundaries it is willing to cross. Tsila Schneider is a founding mother of the genre. She is fifty-nine, a mother of eleven, and the wife of a rabbi who lives in Jerusalem. . . . Her first films, Fingerprint (2004) and Where Will I Go (2008), reflect an industry in its youth, but they carved out a path for the more mature, better-produced films that came after. Since then, Schneider has evolved and perhaps gone on to stretch the boundaries farther than her counterparts.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: Film, Judaism in Israel, Ultra-Orthodox


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount