Called Sacrilegious and Unpatriotic by Its Detractors, a Popular Israeli Comedy Provides Loving, if Biting, Satire

August 27, 2020 | Lazar Berman
About the author: Lazar Berman, news editor at the Times of Israel and a reserve infantry officer in the IDF, has written for the Journal of Strategic Studies, Commentary, and other publications.

While some Israelis are protesting against the prime minister, in favor of the prime minister, or for stricter punishments for sexual assault, hundreds more took to the streets to demonstrate against the newest season of the television series Ha-Y’hudim ba’im (The Jews Are Coming). The show’s many Orthodox detractors seem incensed by its send-ups of biblical figures, but others object to its portrayals of the heroes of more recent Jewish and Zionist history. After dismissing calls for the Knesset to investigate the program as authoritarian, Lazar Berman defends The Jews Are Coming on its merits:

First of all, The Jews Are Coming takes aim at much more than just biblical stories. It portrays characters from Jewish history in Israel and the Diaspora, key episodes in the pre-state era, and memorable, even painful, chapters in Israel’s history. It comments on the giants, the stories, and national myths of the collective memory of Israeli Jews, religious and secular. The show is created entirely for the audience at which it takes aim. It is a real and enjoyable conversation within the family. Only those who are steeped in Tanakh and Jewish history will appreciate the sophistication of the sketches; it is hard to imagine someone who is not both Jewish and Israeli gaining anything beyond a shallow understanding of most of the episodes.

This is not the nasty work of anti-religious secularists. The script and acting show a love for the details of the stories, the nuances of the characters, and yes, the humorous and even uncomfortable aspects of the tales our people has preserved through the generations.

What’s more, anyone who thinks the show is really about the biblical characters themselves misses what makes it so popular. Through the vehicle of Jewish history, The Jews Are Coming makes profound statements about contemporary Israeli society and politics. Does anyone think the sketch about Deborah trying to prophesy to the people—only to have them grill her about her personal life and her choice not to have children—is about anything other than women in today’s workplaces in Israel?

Some might assume that the show unfairly targets the Israeli right, but it hits left-wing Israel just as hard. . . . The national heroes of the Israeli left—including Ben-Gurion, Peres, and Rabin—are all fair game.

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