Life & Culture

Sneak peek at Shtisel #3: all the emotions and Kive’s got a pram

Netflix's hit drama series about Charedi life is due back on British screens in the spring, but its already out in Israel. Karen E H Skinazi has watched it - but promises no spoilers


It might be time to go back and watch the first two series of Shtisel again, to gaze at the world through the romantic eyes of Akiva (Kive) Shtisel, who dreams of love and art. After all, season three is coming. In fact, although it is only set to air on Netflix UK in spring, it has already been released in other arenas, which has given me a bit of a head start. On December 17, eager fans could purchase tickets to watch the first episode of the new series online. For those in Israel, the Yes channel began dropping weekly episodes three days later.

Once you’ve revisited Kive’s pursuit of a kallah; the tensions between Kive and his bombastic father, Shulem; the trials of Kive’s strong-willed sister, Giti, and her equally strong-willed daughter, Ruchami, get ready, because the first episode of the new series is a humdinger.

The third series does not pick up where the second ended. Several years have elapsed since the second series left us with the perfect rom-com ending, a wordless sequence in which the lovers were reunited. Sweet Libi, having been fooled into thinking Kive was wrong for her over the course of the second series, realises her folly, seeks him out, almost misses him, and in the final shot, finds him in a model synagogue in the Israel Museum. When Libi sits down beside Kive in front of the ark, the series two finale foreshadowed the classic happily ever after: a wedding. But what happens after happily ever after?

I am loath to spoil the surprises — and there are plenty — but I will say this: keep some tissues handy. One of my friends who also watched articulated my own reaction succinctly: “I experienced the full range of human emotions in those 53 minutes.” The creators, Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon, are still generating witty lines (a Jewish group with different religious customs from those the Shtisels practise is identified through the expression: “they like their fish a little spicier than we do”); sending people to “sell bagels” (another of their wonderful euphemisms); and exploring complicated family dynamics. They have also joined a growing cohort of provocative television writers who are taking on cultural biases within Israeli society.

But for me, the most remarkable part of Shtisel is its strong, capable women who are never simply relegated to the kitchen or the nursery. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen Giti making the rules of the house and Kive pushing a pram. Shtisel takes viewers’ long-standing preconceptions about Charedi gender norms and turns them on their heads. So — start your rewatch!

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