Shtisel

screen-shotYes. I have to add this. The whole series is online and seeing the oh-so-familiar ‘yes’ TV symbol caused a wee frisson, I have to say. I can’t quite understand why this little series has gone so aggressively viral, but, indeed it has. For me, the cinematography was a lot like going home – Jerusalem stone, people hurriedly heading indoors, the images at the back of Mahane Yehuda were piercingly familiar – I half expected myself to leap in and out of shot along with the haredim who held their expensive hats on so firmly against the wind down the alleyways of Mea She’arim.

If you want to learn how Orthodox Jews think, this fly-on-the-wall series is no bad place to start. A man’s most prized possession is his hat, it would seem. Legions of dowdily dressed wives, Boudiccas in woollen caps, keep their menfolk and their children in line. No wonder some of the men have a hunted expression and the women a steely glint in their eyes.

The Christians are peculiar, for one important reason. Like Huckleberry Finn’s maiden aunt, they ‘grumble over the victuals’ before the fodder on offer is presented. Whenever a Jew has a mouthful before him, he gives thanks, whether it be a glass of water or a bowl of cholent (Jewish stew). Seems a better bet to me – at least you know what exactly you are giving thanks for. If it looks like a cremated ferret, you might want to pass.

The haredim are so very ‘other’. They have a mindset uniquely insular, yet the way families interact is so very comforting in its familiarity. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a few moments.

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