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Ultra-Orthodox ‘Friends’

Doval’e Glickman as Shulem Shtisel (left) in a scene from the Israeli TV show Shtisel. Photo by Roey Roth

By Jonathan Freedland
The New York Review of Books – As a pitch, it would have sounded unpromising. A TV drama set entirely among the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem, the men black-hatted, bearded with side curls, most of the women bewigged, their sleeves long and their skin covered up; the action centered on one family, specifically a widowed father and his unmarried son, sharing a cramped apartment, each sleeping on a narrow single bed; storylines touching on bereavement, the fading health of an elderly mother, power struggles within a religious elementary school, and the search for, if not necessarily love, then a person with whom it might be possible to share a life and make a home. No nudity, no profanity, no touching, and certainly no sex.

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