The Uniqueness of Israel

Television – Israel’s Surprising Export

You probably won’t spend much time on your gap year watching television but there is a good chance that you have already seen a number of Israeli shows. In recent years Israel has produced an impressive number of shows that have been picked up by foreign networks and remade abroad.

The country has exported more successful television formats (the concept and branding of a show) than the vast majority of other foreign language countries. The most famous example of this is Homeland, a show that begun life as the Israeli series Hatufim. There have been multiple seasons of Homeland and its success helped bring the Israeli television industry a great deal of attention.

According to the Israeli Export Institute, Israel’s global TV and cinema sales have quadrupled over the last ten years and in 2016 hit $269 million. While the majority of exports are dramas focusing on terrorists, there are a number of other shows that have been well received around the world. For example, the show Still Standing, a general knowledge quiz show where unsuccessful contestants are dropped through a trap door in the studio floor, has sold 5,000 episodes across 15 countries.

The first Israeli series to enjoy international success was BeTipul (In Treatment), a drama about a psychologist and his patients. It was recreated by HBO in 2008 and gained a huge following thanks to its complex psychological plot.

More recently, the show Yellow Peppers, which focuses on a family of farmers in the Arabah Valley who struggle with their son’s autism, was remade by the BBC as The A Word and set in the Lake District.
Thanks to the popularity of Netflix, original Israeli television shows (with subtitles) are now gaining a global audience. One example of this is Fauda, a show about Israeli special agents hunting West Bank terrorists. With the show available to watch on Netflix Israeli actors are beginning to receive attention from around the world.

Another Israeli show that has been bought by Netflix is Ha Hamama, the show has been recreated in English and is called The Greenhouse. What was unusual with this show is that the Israeli and English versions were produced by the same people but with different actors. The show is set in San Diego but was filmed in Israel and this has led to hopes that there will be many more international collaborations in the future.

These are just a few of the many shows that Israeli has exported in recent years. A quick search online will reveal just how many Israeli shows have been picked up by foreign networks and adapted for their local markets.

While you probably associate Israel more with hi-tech, hummus and holiness, next time you turn on your television pay a bit more attention and you may be surprised to discover that your favourite show is Israeli in origin. Perhaps after spending your gap year in Israel your Hebrew will even be good enough to enjoy the originals.

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