‘East Side’ of Jerusalem and the great clock heist

TV TIME: a new drama series, East Side, which looks at a slice of Jerusalem life where corruption intersects with ideology, is running on Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:15 p.m. on Kan 11.

 YEHUDA LEVI, right, in 'East Side' (photo credit: KAN 11)
YEHUDA LEVI, right, in 'East Side'
(photo credit: KAN 11)

The 1983 theft of a rare clock collection from the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem, perhaps the most daring heist in the history of modern Israel, is the subject of a fascinating new documentary from Yes Docu, currently available on Yes VOD and Sting TV, called My Lover, the Clock Thief by Nili Tal.

This collection of clocks, most of which were eventually recovered, is well worth a visit. It was donated to the museum by the family of Sir David Salomon and it included many famous works by 18th-century clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, among them a self-winding timepiece made for Queen Marie-Antoinette. The entire collection is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

If you ever needed proof that truth is stranger than fiction, look no further than the story of Na’aman Diller, the thief who pulled off the robbery, which is told mainly through reminiscences of his widow, Nili Shomrat, who is now a yoga and Hebrew teacher in Los Angeles. Diller was a brilliant thief, robbing people on the kibbutz where he grew up and eventually carrying out daring bank robberies in Tel Aviv.

Shomrat, who had a whirlwind romance with him in the early 70s, eventually left for the US, getting back together with Diller many years later, after he pulled off the clock heist and then things really got weird. Someone will eventually turn this into a feature film but no fictional drama could be crazier than the real story.

SPEAKING OF real stories, a new drama series, East Side, which looks at a slice of Jerusalem life where corruption intersects with ideology, is running on Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:15 p.m. on Kan 11 (with episodes available once they air on the Kan website, kan.org.il ). The series stars Yehuda Levi as Momi, a former Shin Bet agent who works as a fixer for Jews who want to move into Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. He does the dirty work of paying off Arab residents and getting them to leave their apartments and preferably the country after they sell to a Jewish real estate broker.


Momi does this not out of ideology but to support Maya (Gefen Kaminer), his teen daughter, who is on the autism spectrum and whom he is raising alone. He is trying to teach her enough skills so that she can serve in the army.

The contrast between how tough Momi is in his professional life and how affectionate and indulgent he is with Maya is played very well. Momi is also involved in a somewhat underhanded property deal with the Greek Orthodox Church, through which he stands to receive a major payout.

The series, which covers some of the same ground as the 2022 show, Jerusalem, starring Rotem Sela, is more suspenseful and doesn’t shy away from depicting situations in which no one comes off well. The supporting cast includes Amir Khoury (Image of Victory, Fauda), Neta Riskin (Shtisel), Ala Dakka (Savoy), Shaden Kanboura (In Between, Sandstorm) and many other top actors. The series was created by Yael Rubinstein Nitzan, with Yossi Madmoni and Dikla Barkai.

Gefen Kaminer, the actress who plays Momi’s daughter, is actually on the autism spectrum and she gives an impressive performance. While the casting of someone on the spectrum is commendable, as the parent of a son with autism who needs 24-hour care, I still long for the day when a person like my son, who could never act on cue (which is the case for millions of people on the autism spectrum) can be portrayed on screen and the demand for authentic casting tends to stand in the way of that.

Jewish characters on television

IT TURNS out that being a female, Jewish 20-something with no direction in New Zealand is surprisingly similar to being one in Brooklyn, as the new comedy series, Kid Sister, makes clear. Kid Sister is running on Hot VOD and Next TV and is showing on Tuesdays on Hot 3 at 8:30 p.m., starting on February 28. It features Simone Nathan playing a character she has said in interviews is loosely based on herself, a modern Orthodox young woman who lives with her close-knit family after returning from studying abroad.

As she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life, she must also hide her gentile boyfriend from her family. It’s not subtle humor but Lulu, the heroine, would admit that she doesn’t have a subtle family and the series is fast-paced and very well done. If you enjoyed the recent series, Chanshi, about an Orthodox American woman in Jerusalem, you’ll like this.

WHEN I first read that the series, Fleishman is in Trouble, which is available in Israel on Disney+, is a portrait of a New York doctor going through a divorce, I wasn’t optimistic. I thought of the Scenes from a Marriage reboot, which was mostly a slog. I thought: Chilled white whine. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the show, which stars Jesse Eisenberg as Toby Fleishman, a Manhattan hepatologist who is thrown for a loop when his ex-wife, Rachel (Claire Danes), an extremely successful theatrical agent, drops off their children at his apartment and disappears.

The subsequent turmoil leads him to reconnect with his two best friends from his college year in Israel, Libby (Lizzy Caplan), who narrates the story, and Seth (Adam Brody). The series works because it is so beautifully written – Taffy Brodesser-Akner adapted it from her bestselling novel of the same name – and deals with familiar issues from a deeper vantage point than usual.

The fact that Rachel simply goes missing gives it a core of foreboding and suspense that makes it more than just a comedy of manners and towards the end of the season, the plot does a U-turn and there is a powerful and intriguing twist.

The three lead actors – all of whom are wonderful – give the best performances I have seen from them in years. Fleishman gets so much right about this New York milieu, which made it clear how much clumsy series like The Undoing, set among pretty much the same group of people, got wrong.

The series also gets pretty much everything right about Toby’s traditional Jewish background and the strong connections he feels to his friends from his one-year program in Israel. The soundtrack features several Israeli pop tunes and when Toby, Libby and Seth want to joke around, they mimic the aggressive beggar who used to hit them up in Jerusalem, who cursed them for generations when she felt they weren’t generous enough.

THE LESS you know about Fleetwood Mac, the more likely you are to enjoy Daisy Jones & The Six, a new drama series on Amazon Prime starting in March. It is inspired by the heyday of that band and is based on the novel of the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Starring Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter), as a Stevie Nicks-like character, it tells the story of the rapid rise to fame of a band that makes its messy relationships the center of its music, as Fleetwood Mac did.

But while there is no need for the series to slavishly recreate Fleetwood Mac’s story, it’s unfortunate that the series makes the characters, the plot and especially the music blander and less interesting than it was in real life.

While Keough is good in her role and has the kind of presence that you can see would shine on stage, most of the cast is fashion-model cute in a way that the real band wasn’t. This fictional band is the most chaste and well-behaved in rock history, which makes for pretty dull viewing. But maybe Daisy Jones will get young people interested in Fleetwood Mac, the way that Stranger Things put Metallica and Kate Bush back on the pop charts.