The bad boys of yeshiva

As ‘Shabab­nikim’ wraps up its first sea­son, au­di­ences are dy­ing for more of the four haredi youth who aren’t afraid to peek at the out­side world

Jerusalem Post - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - • By AMY SPIRO

It all came down to a show­down in the beit midrash. As the sea­son fi­nale of Shabab­nikim opened, the stu­dents in a Jerusalem yeshiva were look­ing to over­throw their rosh yeshiva, or head rabbi.

And while it al­most looked like things were go­ing to come to fisticuffs – which it might have if this were any other show – in the end they set­tled it the haredi (ul­tra-Or­tho­dox) way: by ap­peal­ing to a re­spected rab­binic ar­biter for a rul­ing.

Through­out its 12-episode run, which fin­ished this week, Shabab­nikim has be­come one of the most buzzed-about new shows in Is­rael. Dis­cussed at Shab­bat ta­bles, work­places and in bars, the com­edy brought to a wide au­di­ence a lens rarely trained on the haredi com­mu­nity: hu­mor. Cre­ator Eli­ran Malka and pro­ducer Daniel Paran hit the right tone at the right time – and left au­di­ences want­ing more.

While HOT, which aired the sit­com, would not con­firm a se­cond sea­son pick-up, Malka told the Srugim web­site ear­lier this month that he al­ready has big plans for more episodes. And HOT would be silly to pass them up, in par­tic­u­lar be­cause in rat­ings it pub­lished on Tues­day, Shabab­nikim was its most-watched show in the past year, beat­ing all its other orig­i­nal of­fer­ings and even im­ports Game of Thrones and Hand­maid’s Tale. It was also nom­i­nated for eight awards by the Is­raeli Academy of Film and Tele­vi­sion, which will be de­cided upon in March.

The show fo­cused on four stu­dents at a prom­i­nent (and fic­tional) Jerusalem yeshiva, who, at least as the sea­son pro­gressed, fit the “shabab­nik” stereo­type: a haredi youth who is more fo­cused on what’s out­side the beit midrash than on his books.

With some more se­ri­ous mo­ments and some up­roar­i­ously funny ones, Shabab­nikim of­fers up the hard truth that not all yeshiva stu­dents are fo­cused solely on learn­ing and many of them have more than a pass­ing in­ter­est in the out­side world.

The four even­tual friends – Avi­noam, Meir, Dov Lazer and Gedalia – have fairly dif­fer­ent back­grounds, per­son­al­i­ties and learn­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But as the sea­son un­folds, they find them­selves caught up to­gether in all sorts of dis­trac­tions, from hang­ing out with women to be­friend­ing a movie star, and even set­ting a bill­board on fire. Some of the show’s most in­sight­ful and cut­ting mo­ments in­volve dat­ing and the in­cred­i­ble Guri Alfi play­ing match­maker Shlomi Zaks. The world of shid­duchim (match­mak­ing) on the show re­veals many of the racial ten­sions be­tween Sephardim and Ashke­nazim, the ex­pec­ta­tions that women not be “too smart” and the class, fi­nan­cial and other di­vi­sions that play a role.

The se­ries even touches on the ex­emp­tions of haredim from army ser­vice, the roles ul­tra-Or­tho­dox women are ex­pected to play, re­la­tions be­tween haredi and na­tional-re­li­gious fig­ures and the ten­sions of rab­binic suc­ces­sion.

The show’s por­trayal of the pur­port­edly in­su­lar com­mu­nity is not with­out flaws, and not ev­ery de­tail is ex­actly in place. But Shabab­nikim tells some hard truths – and of­fers up some big laughs – and will hope­fully re­turn to Is­raeli TV screens soon.

(Ohad Ro­mano/HOT)

TRAIN­ING A hu­mor­ous lens on the haredi com­mu­nity: Shabab­nikim.

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