If you’re serious about TV—and, really, why wouldn’t you be? What else is there these days?—you’ve probably already heard about Shababnikim, arguably the best Israeli show since, well, Srugim, or Fauda, or whatever other Israeli show you may be obsessed with. It follows four friends at the finest of Jerusalem’s yeshivot who care more about smoking, sipping Nespresso, and watching Van Damme films than about spending their days poring over mishnayot.
If you speak any Hebrew, check it out online: It is, as Karen Skinazi wrote in Tablet recently, “Tarantinoesque dark,” which means that when you see these dudes in their black suits, white shirts, and black hats, you expect mayhem to giddily follow along.
And follow along it does: According to the haredi press in Israel, two students of Derech Hochma, an elite yeshiva in Jerusalem, were recently expelled after their rabbis learned that they skipped out on learning Torah and answered a casting call sent out to young haredi men to come act as extras in the popular show.
Put bluntly, here’s what happened: Students at a top-tier yeshiva in Jerusalem were kicked out for misbehaving and playing themselves in a TV sitcom about students at a top-tier yeshiva in Jerusalem who often misbehave.
Learning of the expulsion, the show’s stars, who are not haredi, rushed to the students’ defense. “I believe the students participated in the show innocently, and in order to represent yeshiva students as they really are,” said Ori Laizerouvich, who plays the studious Gedaliah. “The show is an important bridge between the haredi and the secular worlds, and as far as I’m concerned brings about real communion, true love without judgment, and pure interpersonal communication. I hope and expect that these boys be allowed to return to whatever academic institution they wish to be a part of.”
Amen to that. In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here is episode one; see if you can spot the two freewheelin’ yeshiva boichers lingering in the background: