It’s got the power struggles, intrigue, love triangles and plot twists of any soap opera. But in the world’s first Hasidic “telenovella” — as soaps are known in Israel — there are no steamy love scenes and dialogue is peppered with “praise the Lord.”
The first half-hour episode of “The Rebbe’s Court” aired Thursday on Azure, a new Israeli cable channel focusing on Jewish issues. The show is set in a community of Hasidic Jews in Tel Aviv and portrays a world normally closed to outsiders.
Uri Orbach, the channel’s program director, said the show’s goal is to entertain, but narrowing Israel’s religious-secular divide is a welcome byproduct. “You see the ultra-Orthodox as real people,” he said.
Many Israelis believe the culture clash between Orthodox and secular Jews is one of the nation’s most pressing problems. Each side feels its way of life is threatened by the other, and decades of animosity have left the two groups with little common language.
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Actress Ranana Raz, who plays Zippora, said the soap’s steamy story lines are difficult to portray in the Hasidic setting, where men and women refrain even from casual touching. “It is challenging to show desire when you can’t do things in the normal manner. The eyes talk a lot,” she told Israel TV.
Menaster said the limitations make “The Rebbe’s Court” more exciting than a run-of-the-mill soap.