Maggie Gyllenhaal is an Israeli philanthropist in new TV series that takes on Mideast conflict

In the opening moments of “The Honorable Woman,” an eight-part series that premiered July 31 on Sundance TV, the young Nessa Stein looks on as an assassin plunges sharp tongs into her father’s neck, splattering her face with blood.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

The action then fast-forwards to the same room in London 29 years later, where the now-35-year-old Nessa (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a powerful businesswoman and philanthropist, tells a gathered audience that her murdered father was “first and foremost, a great son of Israel.” A Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family to the Nazis, he had arrived in England as a refugee in 1939 and gone on to become a wealthy Zionist gunrunner, providing tanks and munitions to the fledgling Jewish state.

Having eventually inherited his business empire, Nessa and her brother, Ephra, now believe that “the greatest threat to Israel is not politics, but poverty.” So the siblings have transformed their father’s business into a charitable foundation that, after months of negotiations with the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, plans to bring broadband Internet to the West Bank.

But the Palestinian who was awarded the contract to lay the cable is murdered; Nessa’s efforts to introduce a talented Palestinian violinist at the Royal Academy of Music ends in the kidnapping of her nephew from the concert hall; Mossad and British secret service spooks lurk everywhere; and Nessa fears for her life as she suffers flashbacks to her kidnapping and incarceration in what appears to be a Gaza prison some years earlier.


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Naomi Pfefferman

L.A. Jewish Journal