11 Must-Watch Stories From Israel
As 2020 has shown us, you really never know what life will bring. One day you’re planning a trip overseas, and the next day the entire world is on lockdown. Life is a sneaky little trickster, isn’t it? For those of us who are avid globetrotters, there’s nothing more anguishing than when our travel plans are interrupted. That’s why, in addition to actively exploring the world, we make it our mission to find the best stories from around the globe, so that we can still travel even when we’re stuck inside. We currently have shows and movies from more than 35 countries — with new titles added every month! — so we can keep experiencing new cultures all year-round, no matter what life brings.
Today we’re showcasing our standout creators from Israel, which has a rich and vibrant history that dates back to pre-biblical times. (That’s a long history.) It’s only natural that countless incredible stories have originated from the country, from 2008’s Oscar-nominated “Waltz with Bashir” to the TV series “Prisoners of War,” which formed the basis for “Homeland.” Topic has seven more stories from Israel that the world should know about.
This dystopian crime series explores an alternate-reality Israel that’s split into two territories, one secular and one ultra-Orthodox. When a girl is caught in a legal custody battle between the two sides, a man is recruited to kidnap her and smuggle her from one side to the other. The show offers a unique perspective on the real-life cultural clashes between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community and its more liberal population.
“Commandments” follows a group of young Orthodox men who defy their families, and society, to join the Israeli army. By following these individuals and how their military training clashes with their families’ religious beliefs, the show sheds light on one of Israel’s most significant cultural chasms: the army debate between the ultra-Orthodox community, who believes they are exempt from joining the military, and the rest of the country. It’s a compelling drama about one of the most pressing issues Israel faces today.
This documentary is about a terrorist attack at an Israeli bus station...allegedly. Told through security footage, cellphone videos, and eyewitness accounts “Death in the Terminal” transports viewers right into the bus station and deftly illustrates how misleading a situation can be when you’re consumed by chaos. Within 18 minutes, two men are dead, and one man is targeted as the perpetrator, but did authorities and bystanders get the right guy or did they attack an innocent man in haste? You will feel that visceral sense of “what is happening???!”
There’s nothing like a mother’s advice, even when it’s not yours. When Avigail witnesses someone else’s very off-color mother at the hospital, she gets the sudden urge to befriend her. Though Avigail’s the one who tricks the woman into hanging out, she gets schooled by her new unconventional mother figure in mischief. It’s like getting one last breath of fresh spontaneity before committing your life to a new human.
In this short documentary, filmmaker Yuval Hameiri reimagines his mother’s last day on earth using household objects. Later on we find out that the inanimate reenactment is meant to replace valuable footage that was accidentally erased and lost forever. It’s a quiet documentary that will resonate loudly with those familiar with grief.
Speaking of grief, “One Week and a Day” is an unapologetically realistic portrayal of two people’s different reactions to mourning. After sitting Shiva for their late son, Eyal and Vicky return to life to find that the world hadn’t stopped when they did — rude, right? The film shows the couple trying to move on in spite of the disorienting experience that is grieving, only to face such absurd scenarios — including fighting over a burial plot — that they can only laugh.
Finding humor in death seems to be a consistent theme here. “Stockholm” is a dark comedy about a circle of friends who must hide the death of their close friend, a famous economist, in order for him to receive the Nobel Prize. The miniseries prods at the notion that age makes you wise, because judging by the antics that these four septuagenarians get into, they are just as clueless and flawed as anyone.
This adrenaline-inducing thriller kicks off with Dr. Yael Danon facing an impossible choice: kill the Israeli prime minister she’s supposed to operate on tomorrow, or watch her husband and two children die at the hands of the masked men who have taken them hostage. Nothing’s black or white, however, and we soon learn that Adam, the leader of the hostage-takers, has his own very personal reasons for his radical actions.
How can you wake up from a nightmare when you’re not asleep? Dr. Ari Milus’ sleep disorder returns at a very inopportune time — right when people around him start dying. This high-end crime drama alternates between Ari’s increasingly complicated present and his dark past, haunted by a charismatic and dangerous Kabbalah sect leader known only as the Wordmaker. As he struggles to differentiate dreams from reality and manage the reawakened secrets from his repressed past, Ari must navigate a series of murders, all mysteriously connected to him.
The comedy-tragedy connection theme continues with Nehama. Guy Nehama is a newly widowed father of five with an erratic brother, an IT job he hates and a sleazy boss. What could possibly be funny about that? Somehow this dark comedy manages to mine humor and intrigue out of Guy’s struggle to deal with his wife’s death, single fatherhood, a flirtatious coworker, and his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.
Get out your time-space continuum graphs, because The Grave is about to take you on a wild ride through multiverses, time travel, and mind-bending phenomena. This paranormal mystery kicks off with an earthquake unearthing three skeletons whose DNA inexplicably matches those of three people who are very much alive. As the series unfolds, we watch single dad Yoel, incarcerated Avigail, and Niko, the mentalist, struggle to face their inner demons as their deepest secrets are revealed.