We have been watching the Israeli TV serial “Shtisel” the last few days (it is available on Netflix). I find the availability of foreign serials on Netflix a very good development; We watched Yunus Emre (a Turkish serial about the Turkish Sufi poet; a sort of less famous Rumi) and enjoyed it. Turkish serials have good production values, though the propaganda requirements of modern Turkey can be heavy handed (and therefore the depictions of 13th Century Turks are likely to be not even close to accurate), but even so, at least they shed light on what contemporary Turkish media mavens regard as desirable. Yunus Emre is about “spiritual” matters, so the propaganda is not a huge issue (no more than what it would be in a Western production), but it is a much bigger element in Ertrugul.. another series worth sampling (though it is extremely long, so don’t even try to watch it all). The propaganda in this series completely dominates any actual historical record that may be buried under it. Still, at least one can see what kind of founding myth the neo-Ottomans want to project (short version: The torch of Islamdom is passed to the vigorous (though as yet insignificant) Ottomans as the Seljuks and others are falling to the Mongols and the vicious conspiracies of the Crusaders; the spiritual side of this great clash is being handled by Ibn ul Arabi on the Islamic side and the Templar Grand Master on the Christian side).
Shtisel is far closer to reality than either of the Turkish serials I mentioned (it is also set in contemporary times, so that makes a difference, though the Turkish serials set in current times are much more crudely propagandistic as well). I have never been to Israel and don’t know a lot about the Haredi community, but what little I know (mostly from reading the news and from conversations with a couple of Israeli colleagues), this seems to be a very realistic (and very sympathetic) portrayal of this ultra-orthodox community. Some of the subtler plot elements may be missed by viewers who have no knowledge of Israeli society, but maybe the serial will be gateway to learning more?
I have only seen about 6 episodes, so I have no idea how it holds up later.. still, check it out.