“Shababnikim” creator Eliran Malka shared a wealth of anecdotes, insider details and background information about his award-winning series during a Times of Israel Presents event on Sunday, August 25 at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai.
The series, about four hip Israeli yeshiva students grappling with their desire to be part of the greater world while still remaining within their insular, Haredi community, was an instant hit when released on HOT, where it instantly garnered millions of viewers.
Malka told of his first time seeing Jerusalem-style yeshiva students dressed in stylish Zara suits, cigarettes in one hand and their books of Talmud in the other.
That sight, unusual and compelling for the Nahariya-raised Malka, served as the spark to begin telling his story.
Malka spent months writing the series, then peddled it around Israeli TV studios to no avail. When he gave it to veteran TV producer Danny Paran, he received a call from Paran within hours. The two then spent four years polishing the script.
They interviewed hundreds of untried actors for the roles of the four main characters, seeking newcomers who would fully embody the roles.
When they finally found their actors, all four spent a week at a yeshiva, learning to talk the talk and walk the walk, and then sought their own sartorial style, fitting their uniforms of black suits and white shirts — down to their shoes — according to their character’s personality.
Malka, who in 2018 also released his first feature film, “The Unorthodox” — focusing on the lesser-known background story behind the establishment of the Shas party — spoke about his desire to create a somewhat alternate reality with “Shababnikim,” one in which yeshiva guys are sexy and cool, a concept which surprised and delighted his viewers.
When asked if the ultra Orthodox community has also watched the show, Malka grinned and answered, “I’ve heard that the yeshiva study halls were empty on Monday nights,” the evening when the series was first shown on HOT.
Malka is currently working on the second season, which will have 16 episodes, as well as a second feature film. He said he did not know if the show would be purchased by international broadcasters, but said he’s satisfied creating shows for Israeli viewers.