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.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

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


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy