We’ve all spent a lot of time glued to various screens during the Covid-19 lockdown. But even though it looks as though New Zealand is heading into alert level two, life will not return to the normal it once was. That means we’ll all continue to spend much of our time at home. Probably watching more stuff on screens.
Luckily, we are living through the golden age of small screen production and there’s a wealth of fantastic films, programmes and series to watch. So if you happen to be looking for some Jewish or Israeli themed viewing material to settle down in front of, there’s plenty to choose from.
To help you out though, we’ve put together the following comprehensive list of the current crop of Jewish or Israeli themed films and series that are now available for your post-lockdown viewing pleasure…
Disillusioned with her life, a 19-year-old Jewish woman named Esty (Shira Haas) runs away from her arranged marriage and her ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and moves to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives. (Netflix)
Since its 2015 premiere, millions have been gripped by the Nextflix show’s storyline, which revolves around Israeli unit commander Doron Kavillio (played by co-writer Lior Raz) fighting those who threaten his country’s security.
French–Jewish actor Tomer Sisley plays an Israeli intelligence officer investigating a mysterious and charismatic man (Mehdi Dehbi) who gains global attention for apparently performing miracles. CIA officer Eva Geller (Michelle Monaghan) tries to unravel whether he is a divine entity or a con artist. Mad Men actress Melinda Page Hamilton stars alongside Wil Traval, Fares Landoulsi, Dermot Mulroney and Beau Bridges.
The Red Sea Diving Resort (Netflix)
Based on the real-life rescue mission, the details of which were declassified a few years ago, The Red Sea Diving Resort tells the daring story of Mossad agents and brave Ethiopians working together in the early 1980s to use a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of Ethiopian-Jewish refugees to Israel. Directed, written and co-produced by Homeland creator, Gideon Raff, the cast features Chris Evans as Ari Kidron, the Mossad agent who co-leads the mission into Sudan, alongside Michael Kenneth Williams, Ben Kingsley, Haley Bennett and Alessandro Nivola.
The Spy (Netflix)
Sacha Baron Cohen stars as a Mossad agent in The Spy, released this week. Eli Cohen worked undercover in Syria in 1961 -65 and developed close ties with the political and military hierarchy, before becoming chief adviser to the minister of defence. But his cover, under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet, was eventually blown and he was put on trial and executed by Syria. The intelligence he gathered was credited by then-PM Levi Eshkol as a factor in Israel’s success in the Six-Day War. His story is brought to life by Homeland creator Gideon Raff, who writes and directs the six-part drama.
The Devil Next Door (Netflix)
John Demjanjuk lived comfortably in Cleveland as a retired Ukrainian-American carworker until his past caught up with him. A group of Holocaust survivors identified him as the Treblinka death camp guard Ivan the Terrible. This riveting five-part documentary tells what happened next. In 1985, he was tried in Israel and acquitted after pleading that he was never at Treblinka, but at a different camp, which was apparently true. He was later extradited to Germany and convicted as an accessory to the murder of 28,000 Jews.
One of Us (Netflix)
This powerful documentary from directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the team responsible for Jesus Camp (a 2006 film about youngsters at an evangelical summer camp) follows three ex-Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn as they adapt to their new secular lifestyles. Etty Ausch is in the midst of a custody battle with her former husband, whom she claims was abusive throughout their marriage, while Luzer Twersky, who left behind his wife and children when he decided to stop being religious, is seen trying to make it as an actor. Meanwhile, Ari Hershkowitz reveals he was a child sex abuse victim and has struggled since leaving his community with drug addiction.
Focusing on a fictional, ultra-orthodox family from Jerusalem, this family drama follows a young bachelor and his widowed father, who search for love within the strict rules of religious observance.
When Heroes Fly (Netflix)
Written and directed by Omri Givron, co-creator of Hostages and based on a book by Amir Gutfreund, the show tells the story of four veterans of a special commando unit from the 2006 Lebanon War who reunite for a final mission – to rescue the girlfriend of one of the commandos, who has been abducted by a cartel in Columbia.
The Angel (Netflix)
This real-life thriller is directed by Ariel Vromen and based on Uri Bar-Joseph’s bestselling novel, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. The gripping plot tells the story of high-ranking Egyptian official Ashraf Marwan, who became a spy for Israel despite being the son-in-law of former Egyptian President Garmal Abdel Nasser and adviser to his successor, Anwar Sadat.
The Resistance Banker (Netflix)
The Resistance Banker shows the audacious actions of Walraven van Hall and his brother, Gijsbert, members of a prominent banking family, who for three years bankrolled the Dutch resistance. Together, they stole $250million from Nazi-controlled coffers and borrowed an additional $250m from other bankers to carry out attacks, smuggle Allied pilots to safety and provide financial support to at least 8,000 Jews in hiding during World War II. The bravery of van Hall, who was recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in 1978, is powerfully told.
Operation Finale (Netflix)
Gripping drama from director Chris Weitz retelling the true-life story of Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and his team, who covertly hunted down and captured Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), while hiding in Argentina. Operation Finale shows Eichmann’s subsequent arrest and trial in Israel in 1961, where he was ultimately executed for his crimes.
This original Israeli series — an international success — stars Ayelet Zurer as a successful surgeon, wife and mother of two who is about to get the gig of a lifetime: She is scheduled to operate on the Israeli prime minister. However, the night before the procedure, masked men break into her home and take her family hostage. The only thing they want is to make sure the prime minister does not survive his operation.
The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch (Netflix)
Pressured to marry a nice Orthodox Jewish woman, a young Orthodox Jew is thrown for a loop when he falls for someone who will not meet up to his mother’s approval.
Mossad 101 (Netflix)
Featuring a superstar ensemble cast of Israeli actors, Mossad 101 is a fictional story showing the process of recruitment and training of Mossad operatives, as well as the recruits’ personal entanglements with each other and their loved ones, in a way that shows the humanity behind the covert institution’s stern reputation. Dramatic, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
During WWII, in Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe, the three Bielski brothers escape to the Belarussian forests along with many other Jews in order to survive.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (Netflix)
The time is 1939 and the place is Poland, homeland of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski. The Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck. The Zabinskis covertly begin working with the Resistance and put into action plans to save the lives of hundreds from what has become the Warsaw Ghetto.
#AnneFrank. Parallel Stories (Netflix)
Actress Helen Mirren retraces Anne Frank’s life through the pages of her diary, and through the lives of five woman who, as young girls, were also deported to concentration camps but escaped the Holocaust.
Hunters (Amazon Prime)
Nazi hunters discover hundreds of high-ranking Nazi officials in 1977 New York City, conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S.; the Hunters set out to bring the Nazis to justice and thwart their new genocidal plans.
Srugim (Amazon Prime)
Considered by some an Orthodox version of “Friends,” this series revolves around the lives of a group of single religious men and women living in Jerusalem. “Srugim” is a frank, moving and sometimes hilarious look into the dating lives of young religious people in Israel, with all of its challenges and pressures. It broaches a breadth of topics, from losing faith to divorce to feminism and even homosexuality.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime)
One of the raved-about TV shows of the past few years, this Golden Globe-winning show follows Miriam Maisel, a housewife in the 1950s as she becomes a stand-up comic.
The Honourable Woman (TVNZ OnDemand)
From the corridors of governmental power to a Gaza safe-house, powerful Anglo-Israeli businesswoman Nessa Stein works tirelessly for peace in the Middle East. But when a Palestinian businessman is killed, Nessa must fight forces that are conspiring against her.
The Plot Against America (Neon)
The Plot Against America is a cautionary tale that hits close to home. In an alternate American history, a working-class Jewish family watch the political rise of Charles Lindbergh – a xenophobic populist who defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt to become president and turns the nation toward fascism. The Plot Against America is an HBO Miniseries that takes a hard look at American history and examines the actions of many in supporting the rise of a fascist America.