When Israel celebrated its 20th Independence Day in 1968, another milestone was gladly reached when black-and-white images of the parade were filmed for the first time by a state broadcaster and shown to the nation.
The television industry marks its 50th anniversary next month and while the Jewish state may have been a little slow off the blocks – taking another 20 years before even allowing colour – Israel is today viewed as the go-to nation for original drama.
From Homeland and Fauda to False Flag and The A Word, Israeli exports are being snapped up around the globe and fast becoming a staple of our television-watching preferences.
Here’s our pick of the 10 best Israeli shows available to stream from Netflix and Amazon:
Global smash hit Homeland, developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, is based on the Israeli spy thriller, Hatufim (Prisoner of War), which was created by Gideon Raff. The series follows CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a US Marine who is suspected of having been “turned” by the enemy while held captive by al-Queda, prior to returning to the United States. The show’s seventh series is currently being show on Channel 4 on Sundays, but you can catch up on all previous episodes through Netflix and Amazon.
Meaning “chaos” in Arabic, Fauda was launched as a Netflix original series in 2016 and after garnering wide critical acclaim, has just been renewed for a third series. The show is partly based on the Israeli army experiences of creator and star Lior Raz (Doron Kavillio) serving in the Duvdevan Unit, which is famous for its undercover operations. Having retired, Kavillio finds himself pulled back into his old unit in an effort to capture a notorious terrorist.
Beauty and The Baker
First broadcast on Walter Presents, Channel 4’s on-demand service for foreign language dramas, Beauty and The Baker tells the unlikely love story between Noa Hollander (Rotem Sela), one of the richest and most beautiful women in Israel and Amos Dahari (Aviv Alush), a modestly-earning baker who still lives at home with his family. The series was devised by Assi Azar and produced by Keshet International – the same Israeli company behind global hit, Homeland and is available to view on Amazon Prime.
“Hostages,” or “Bnei Aruba” in Hebrew, generated a great deal of buzz before it even came out. In fact, an American adaptation of the show came out three weeks before the original Israeli show premiered. Despite its all-star cast (Toni Colette, Dylan McDermott and Tate Donovan), CBS cancelled “Hostages” after just one season, but the original Israeli series was an international success. Ayelet Zurer stars as a successful surgeon, wife and mother-of-two who is tasked with operating on the Israeli prime minister. However, the night before the procedure, masked men break into her home and take her family hostage. The only thing they demand is that the prime minister does not survive. The nail-biting series is available to watch now on Netflix.
Created by Uri Levron, Daniel Syrkin and Izhar Harlev, Mossad 101 – known originally as Hamidrasha – revolves around a group of Israeli agents training to work for an elite intelligence unit. Available to view on Netflix.
This thrilling drama series, known originally as Kfulim and which aired last summer on Fox UK, revolves around five ordinary Israelis who wake up one morning and discover that their names, faces, and personal details have been splashed across the world’s media on suspicion of involvement in a high-profile kidnapping. Created for Keshet International by Maria Feldman and Amit Cohen, and directed by Oded Raskin, the show has been broadcast in 127 countries and is loosely based on the 2010 assassination in Dubai of a senior Hamas official. Available to watch now on Hulu.
The A Word
Based on Israel series Yellow Peppers by Keren Margalit, The A Word is a BBC drama which follows the family of a five-year-old boy struggling to come to terms with their young son’s autism. Starring Christopher Eccleston and Morven Christie, The A Word is available to watch on Amazon.
Sacha Baron Cohen has been cast as Eli Cohen in the upcoming Netflix drama, The Spy, which is written and directed by Gideon Raff. Cohen lived in Damascus undercover during the 1960s, spying for Israel. He managed to embed himself into Syrian high society and the information he gathered is said to have contributed towards Israel’s success in the Six Day War. Coming soon on Netflix.
Another Netflix Original in the pipeline is the forthcoming spy thriller, The Angel, directed by Ariel Vromen and based on Uri Bar-Joseph’s bestselling novel, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. The real-life plot tells the story of high-ranking Egyptian official Ashraf Marwan who became a spy for Israel despite being the son-in-law of former Egyptian President Garmal Abdel Nasser and adviser to his successor, Anwar Sadat. Coming soon on Netflix.
When Heroes Fly
It hasn’t even hit the screens yet in Israel, but When Heroes Fly is already a big hit with the critics and recently won best series at the inaugural Canneseries Festival. Written and directed by Omri Givron, co-creator of Hostages and based on a book by Amir Gutfreund, the show tells the story of four veterans of a special commando unit from the 2006 Lebanon War who reunite for a final mission – to rescue the girlfriend of one of the commandos, who has been abducted by a cartel in Columbia.