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New Israeli TV Drama Raises Troubling Question: What if Haredi Jews Seceded?

‘Autonomies’ imagines two Jewish states, one secular and one observant, on the cusp of war

Liel Leibovitz
March 21, 2018
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Asi Cohen in 'Autonomies'Via YouTube

If you thought Fauda was suspenseful, get ready for Autonomies, a new show slated for broadcast later this year on Israeli TV. The premise is as simple as it is startling: Unable to resolve their differences, secular and haredi Jews decided to split up into two autonomous states, the secular one announcing Tel Aviv as its capital and the religious one keeping Jerusalem and building a new wall around the holy city.

The show’s protagonist, Broideh, is a small-town haredi crook, portrayed by Asi Cohen, one of Israel’s best-known comics. He ekes out a living smuggling soft-core porn and other contraband from the heathens by the sea to his pious brothers and sister in the haredi enclave. Captured, he is forced to play a part in a gruesome plot, kidnapping a young girl from her secular parents and returning her to her haredi family in Jerusalem.

Lending the show an additional dramatic layer is Shuli Rand: Portraying the haredi community’s charismatic rabbi, Rand is one of Israel’s most celebrated actors and musicians. He grew up in a religious home, moved to Tel Aviv as a young man, and abandoned his observance. In 1998, however, at the height of his fame, he became a Breslav hassid, continuing to act in movies and record hit albums and choosing projects that brought Jewish traditions and ideas to a secular audiences not necessarily familiar with them.

The show’s creators, Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon, explored the secular-haredi divide before with the hit show Shtisel, which followed an amiable young haredi man struggling to find love. The new show seems considerably less sweet. Here’s the first teaser trailer, released yesterday:

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.