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Israeli drama ‘Beauty Queen of Jerusalem’ makes Netflix debut

10 episode series follows a family of Spanish Sephardic Jews living in Jerusalem in the early 20th century, showcasing their Judeo-Spanish traditions

Actors Michael Aloni and Yuval Scharf in 'The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,' a historical series produced in Israel by Yes Studios. (Courtesy: Nati Levi)
Actors Michael Aloni and Yuval Scharf in 'The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,' a historical series produced in Israel by Yes Studios. (Courtesy: Nati Levi)

JTA — As of today, Netflix viewers can watch “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” a period drama that follows a family of Spanish Sephardic Jews living in Jerusalem through different decades of the early 20th century.

The first 10 episodes were made available on Friday, and a second batch of 10 episodes will be released on July 29.

The series, which won 4 Israeli TV Academy Awards this year after debuting last summer, stars Israeli heartthrob Michael Aloni — of “Shtisel” and “When Heroes Fly” fame — and is based on a book of the same name first translated into English in 2016.

It is produced by Israel’s Yes Studios — which was behind the Orthodox family drama “Shtisel” and the IDF thriller “Fauda” — and is being touted as one of Israeli TV’s most expensive and ambitious projects yet.

The story flips back and forth between decades, from the Ottoman Empire era to the days of the British Mandate of Palestine, which eventually becomes the state of Israel. The series showcases Judeo-Spanish traditions and chronicles the dynamics of pre-state Jerusalem, including tensions between its Jewish, Arab and Christian residents — with dialogue in Hebrew, English, Arabic, and even Ladino, a rarity in Israeli TV.

The plot involves the Armoza family, whose men seem cursed to marry women they don’t love.

Aloni and fellow cast members were quick to sign on based on the success and quality of Sarit Yishai-Levi’s novel, they told audience members at a recent event at Temple Emanu-El’s Streicker Center in New York City. Aloni said he read the book in less than two days and cried while reading it; Swell Ariel Or, who plays Aloni’s daughter in the show, said she read the book in two hours.

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