The “New Haredim” Return to Israeli Television Screens

April 18 2022

Unlike the Israeli drama Shtisel, which achieved success with its realist portray of the life of a ḥaredi family, the newer series Shababnikim strikes a more lighthearted tone, and focuses on four young men who can’t quite make it as yeshiva students, and are eager to engage with the outside world even if they have no intention of breaking with their communities. Sarah Rindner reviews the second season, and its portrayal of those Israeli media have dubbed “the new Ḥaredim.”

When Shababnikim was introduced to Israeli audiences in 2017 by the religious filmmaker and showrunner Eliran Malka and Daniel Paran (who passed away the following year), its edgy and fast-paced combination of style, romance, and sophisticated religious content was a first. The show detailed the experiences of four shababnikim (Hebrew/Arabic slang for “wayward yeshiva youth”) as they vacillated between the social expectations of their ultra-Orthodox community and the larger Israeli society, not to speak of their own ambitions and desires, and some genuine philosophical and religious questions about how best to live a Jewish life.

In season two, important changes take hold. Avinoam, Meir, and Dov Laser continue to sip lattes, slink around in bathrobes, and generally enjoy the good life. . . . At risk of losing their social capital and marriageability, they decide to establish a yeshiva of their own. . . .

Yet just as the shababniks finally seem to be growing into their (designer) ḥaredi garments, their presence in Rehavia, “the last secular neighborhood in Jerusalem,” threatens to complicate things. A secular yeshiva moves in right next door. Secular yeshivas, where young Israelis can engage with Jewish texts and strengthen their Jewish identity in a religiously open environment, are in fact a growing phenomenon in modern Israel. This one is a spiritual commune whose members write poetry, smoke marijuana, and observe their religious neighbors with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension. While Malka is bound to attract some opprobrium for his cynical portrayal of Ḥaredim, he is also ready to show that life without tradition has its own pitfalls. The cheerful neohippies of the secular yeshiva are certainly less neurotic than Gedaliah, Dov Laser, and company, but they, too, lack a framework for finding love and meaning.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Haredim, Israeli society, Judaism in Israel, Television

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas