Michael Aloni and Hila Saada as the central couple in "The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem." (Photo/YES Studios)
Michael Aloni and Hila Saada as the central couple in "The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem." (Photo/YES Studios)

‘The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem’: Can a new Israeli Netflix series succeed if it flunks history?

Freedom fighters, a bombing, an unwanted marriage and a forbidden Sephardi-Ashkenazi affair: “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” a new, long-awaited Israeli show, has it all. Based on a best-selling novel by Sarit Yishai-Levi and starring Michael Aloni of “Shtisel” fame — and produced by the same studio — it has all the ingredients to be a fan favorite.

Unfortunately, the political intrigue, insight into Israeli culture and rich character development that drew viewers to other Israeli hits, such as “Fauda” and “Shtisel,” are missing from this newest addition to the Yes Studios stable. Though the show is the kind of period piece that viewers of all backgrounds usually eat up — it flips between 1920’s Ottoman Jerusalem and 1937’s British Mandate Palestine — the history of these eras seems to be an afterthought.

Coming to Netflix at the end of the month, the show follows the life and trials of the Hermosas, a wealthy Sephardic family who own a shop in Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s major market. There’s handsome and romantic Gabriel, his overbearing mother Mercada and the doe-eyed, unloved wife Rosa, as well as their three daughters. There are births and deaths, marriages and affairs, family infighting and political scheming.

All this is established during the first four episodes, each one under an hour; somehow, despite packing in a tumultuous affair, a bombing and 17 years’ worth of events, the show still drags.

Mira Fox
Mira Fox

Mira Fox is a reporter at the Forward. Get in touch at [email protected] or on Twitter @miraefox.

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