In Turkey, Orthodox drama ‘Shtisel’ is being adapted for a Muslim audience


Shtisel,” a TV series about haredi Orthodox Jews that became an international phenomenon after Netflix picked it up in 2018, is getting a Muslim makeover for Turkish audiences, according to Turkish media.

Selahattin Paşali plays the protagonist in the upcoming series titled “Ömer.” (Screenshot from Dizali/Twitter)

A new show titled “Ömer” has begun production and will premiere sometime in 2023 on Turkey’s STAR TV, reported Turkish media.

Not much is known so far about the show’s plot. A trailer depicts the protagonist Ömer, played by Selahattin Paşali, standing at the precipice of a mosque and seemingly stuck between the calls of an imam on one side and a woman (with uncovered hair) on the other as the Islamic call to prayer, also sung by Paşali, sounds in the background.

In Islam, women are required to cover their hair in public, so the images suggest that the main theme of the show could involve Ömer choosing between religious tradition and secularism. That was not one of the central tensions in “Shtisel,” which debuted on Israeli TV in 2014 and was widely praised for depicting the everyday lives of characters based in Jerusalem’s haredi community.

Nonetheless, Paşali’s character is being compared to that portrayed by Michael Aloni, Akiva Shtisel, in “Shtisel,” and an imam character is being likened to the patriarch of the Shtisel family, Shulem Shtisel.

The series’ female lead, Gökçe Bahadir, may be recognized by some Jewish and Israeli audiences: Last year, she starred in the hit Turkish Netflix series “The Club” (“Kulüp”), which follows a Sephardic-Jewish family through the political turmoil of 1940s and 1950s Istanbul.

An Israeli fan base

Turkish shows, often referred to by the Turkish term dizis, have long been as popular in Israel, as they are elsewhere in the Middle East. One show, “The Bride of Istanbul” (“Istanbullu Gelin”) — directed by the same director as “the Club,” Zeynep Gunay Tan, and produced by the same production company as “Ömer” — grew a passionate Israeli fan base in 2018, according to Haaretz.

More than 600,000 Israelis visited Turkey this past summer, which was a record high, according to The Jerusalem Post, after ties between the two countries warmed in 2022 after years of tension.

Last year, it was reported that an American version of “Shtisel,” to be directed by acclaimed filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, was also in the works.

— David I. Klein

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