Hit TV show Fauda is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Israeli content that has taken the world by storm. But the action-packed world of Doron Kabilio et al is far from the only fabulous made-in-Israel show you can catch from the comfort of your own couch.
We’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorite Israeli movies and TV shows available on streaming giant Netflix, ranging from old to new, critically acclaimed to pure fun. Enjoy!
Dismissed is one of the best Israeli shows you can watch on TV. Despite dealing with the intricacies of Israeli military service, it is a surprisingly universal story, a bit reminiscent of another Israeli success story from 2014, Zero Motivation.
The show follows the struggle of Noa, a new commander on a rookie base, to instil military values in both her team of commanders and young soldiers. The plotline diversifies into stories of forbidden romances, ego battles and power structures, all in a bitingly funny way. The cast is absolutely incredible, especially Alona Sa’ar, who plays Noa, and Maya Landsmann, who plays Sapir, and also stars in The Lesson below.
2. The Lesson
The Lesson is one of the surprise hits of recent years in Israeli TV, based as it is on a true story – the dismissal of a high-school teacher from his job after one of his students complained about the political opinions he aired during class. If this sounds rather heavy to you, be rest assured that it certainly is.
But the superb actor, particularly Doron Ben-David (Steve from Fauda) and Maya Landsmann, turn this into a riveting personal story that scrutinizes all the characters involved in their complex messiness and, ultimately, sadness.
3. Rough Diamonds
An Israeli-Belgian coproduction, Rough Diamonds tells the story of an ultra-Orthodox family in Antwerp, Belgium, and their business in the city’s famous diamond district. There’s no Hebrew involved, but rather Dutch, French, English and Yiddish. The show features Yona Elian, one of Israel’s most famous theater actors, and Israeli cantor and performer Dudu Fisher. Themes of family, loyalty and belonging are explored and expanded beyond the close-knit community the plot depicts.
4. The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem
Based on the terrific novel by Sarit Yishai-Levi, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem depicts a multigenerational family in Jerusalem. The story spans the Ottoman, British and Israeli rule of Jerusalem, providing a vivid and picturesque backdrop to the dramatic lives and secrets of the Armoza family through the years. The series features some of Israel’s best-loved actors (such as Shtisel’s Michael Aloni), and gives a sneak peek to Israel of old and new.
5. East Side
Also set in Jerusalem, East Side showcases the gritty politics involved in the hottest real estate in the world. It focuses on Momi, who undertakes the dodgy dealings necessary for securing property from Arab owners for Jewish settlers.
Burned out from his previous job in the Israeli secret service, Momi promises to himself to carry out one last job to guarantee the future of his special-needs daughter, Maya. It touches upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion (with a fabulous episode focusing on the life of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Greece), family and love. An unusual TV production, and a great one at that.
6. The Image of Victory
The 2021 movie Image of Victory is about the battle for the southern Israeli Kibbutz Nitzanim and its surrender to Egyptian forces during the War of Independence in 1948. It was directed by Avi Nesher, one of Israel’s most famous cinematographers.
The title relates to the mission of a young Egyptian journalist to capture the image of Egyptian victory over the kibbutz, and offers an ambitious, and beautiful, glimpse to the troubles and difficulties of both warring parties. In light of the current war, this could be particularly sad to watch.
7. The Wedding Plan
The Wedding Plan centers around a story that could happen, even if only on film, only in Israel. Michal is a single Jewish Orthodox woman who is determined to get married. So determined, that the wedding hall is booked and everything is in place – apart from the groom. That part, Noa leaves in God’s hands.
On her way to find her match, Michal encounters all sorts of people, including her favorite secular popstar, who for a moment becomes viable husband material. The cast include some of Israel’s best actors, including Noa Koler (Checkout, see below) in the lead role. Not exactly a romantic comedy, but both romantic and funny.
Also in the only-in-Israel category, Forgiveness is a wacky movie about friends in crime who parted ways badly when one of them went to jail for bank robbery and the other managed to escape. Upon meeting years later, the friend who got away asks for the forgiveness of the one who didn’t, but things don’t end well. There’s romance, war and even the British Royal Dance Academy involved, in a fun and fast-paced movie packed with stellar actors.
Taking wacky to a completely new level is Checkout, one of the hit TV shows in Israel in recent years. The show follows the antics taking place at a fictional supermarket, focusing on its employees and customers, and is so very funny because each of the characters is one you’ve encountered millions of times, now distilled to their quirky, annoying or unique essence.
The show’s cast is a roll call of Israel’s finest comedic actors, and while the plotline might seem very place-oriented, the story it tells is utterly universal.
Last but not least, this list would not be complete without Fauda. The hit TV show, which captivated audiences all around the globe, manages to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a complex, non-obvious way without glossing over its violence and ugliness while still retaining an action-packed, fun beat and array of hugely likeable characters from both sides.
Watching it now, while Israel is at war, is especially poignant, especially considering that some of the actors were called up for service including Idan Amedi – the show’s star who was badly wounded in Gaza but is now on the road to recovery.