'Transparent' touches down in Israel

Fourth season of award-winning Amazon show takes a trip around the Holy Land.

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September 25, 2017 07:10
3 minute read.

TRANSPARENT Season 4 Official Trailer (HD) Jeffrey Tambor Amazon Comedy Series. (YouTube/JoBlo TV Show Trailers)

TRANSPARENT Season 4 Official Trailer (HD) Jeffrey Tambor Amazon Comedy Series. (YouTube/JoBlo TV Show Trailers)

 
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The fourth season of the critically acclaimed Amazon Prime Video show Transparent premiered last week, taking the Pfefferman family - and viewers - on a trip to Israel.

After being invited to speak at a conference on Judaism and gender at a university in Israel, Maura Pfefferman, the transgender woman at the heart of the award-winning show, and her daughter Ali take off for the Holy Land. The majority of season 4, which was released in its entirety on Friday, takes place in Israel. The family explores the country over the course of the 10 episodes, with each member experiencing the trip, and the country, in their own way.

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Some familiar local faces also pop up, like Ayelet Zurer (of Munich, Man of Steel and Bnei Aruva fame), playing a long-lost relative and Mark Ivanir (most recently seen in Homeland and Lihiyot Ita), who portrays a security guard/tour guide.

Variety's review of the season notes that "If nothing else, 'Transparent' succeeds this season as a travelogue that makes the country so entrancing that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism should give [show creator Jill] Soloway a medal."

This article contains spoilers for the fourth season of the show.

Maura and Ali - portrayed by Jeffrey Tambor and Gaby Hoffmann - arrive together, walking out of Ben-Gurion Airport, kneeling down on the ground, kissing it and saying "baruch hashem." They are then summarily whacked by a pair of haredi men and their rolling suitcases.

Driving through Tel Aviv, Maura comments that there are "Jews as far as the eye can see... not as many yarmulkes as you would think."

But while Maura is giving her keynote address, Ali meets up with a social justice activist named Lyfe she connected with on Instagram. While Ali wants to go out for a drink with Lyfe, the activist instead tells her that she tries "not to spend money in Israel because of the boycott" - so they travel to Ramallah. There they hook up with an unlikely collective of gender-fluid mostly foreign and some local activists living on a goat farm in the West Bank.

"Do you guys break the boycott for delicious treats?" Ali asks after they wax poetic over Bamba. "Only when you're drunk!" one woman replies.

After Maura realizes that the father he thought was long dead is actually alive and well and living in Caesarea, the rest of the Pfefferman family flies out to join them. They embark on a Birthright-tour of sorts around the country, shopping in the market in Jerusalem's Old City, visiting the Kotel, staying with Beduin in the desert and floating in the Dead Sea. The family squabbles on their bus rides about the plight of the Palestinians and the establishment of the Jewish state. At the Kotel, Ali is troubled that the men are allotted a larger portion of the wall, while the women peer over the barrier at the proceedings.

When they visit the fictional Tapuz settlement, Ali breaks with the family and heads back to the West Bank, telling her father that she doesn't "want to be on this stolen land.''

The Pfeffermans' split family trip to Israel portrays two very different experiences - with little interaction between them. While that can often be true of life here, the idea that tourists must choose to visit either a settlement or Ramallah - but not both - is a false assertion. The rest of the Pfeffermans don't seem to care about Ali's concerns, and she doesn't want to enjoy the vacation with her family who can't understand her decisions.

But since the season ends with Ali opting to stay behind in Israel while her family returns, this story line may not be done.

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