|Created by||Laizy Shapiro
|Written by||Yishai Goldflam
|Directed by||Laizy Shapiro|
|Opening theme||Ana Efne|
|Country of origin||Israel|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||45|
|Executive producer(s)||Eitan Abut|
|Camera setup||Ram Shweki|
|Running time||40 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Abut-Barkai Productions|
|Original channel||Yes Stars|
|Original run||June 23, 2008– January 29, 2012|
Srugim (Hebrew: סרוגים; literally, "knitted" or "crocheted") is an Israeli television drama which originally aired on Yes TV between 2008 and 2012. It was directed by Eliezer "Laizy" Shapiro, who co-created it with Hava Divon. The series depicted the lives of five national religious single men and women who reside in Jerusalem; the title is a reference to the crocheted skullcaps worn by men of that denomination. Srugim, which dealt with controversial issues in the Religious Zionist society in Israel, caused a public uproar within that sector. It enjoyed high ratings and won five Israeli Academy of Film and Television Awards.
Yif'at and Hodaya, who went to an all-girls school together, now share an apartment in Katamon, the hub of religious singles' social life in Jerusalem. Yif'at meets Nati, a childhood friend who is now a successful doctor, and he introduces the two women to his roommate Amir, a recently divorced teacher. Re'ut, a high-earning accountant who is also a religious feminist, joins their small band. The five are all Religious Zionist, unmarried and at their late twenties or early thirties, and must cope with a society that expects people to be wed early.
Yif'at falls for Nati, who seems oblivious. When she confesses her feelings, he admits he knew it all along but does not reciprocate. Tired of Jerusalem, she moves to a quiet settlement. Hodaya, who is becoming less pious, meets Avri, a secular archaeologist, and dates him. Amir must deal with the stigma of being divorced, which hampers his chances to enter a new relationship; when he encounters his divorcee, Na'ama, their mutual loneliness leads them to have sex. They must divorce again in a Rabbinical court. Re'ut wants to cantillate the haftara and convinces the conservative Yochai to teach her. While rejecting the notion of a woman chanting at first, he soon becomes enamored with her. When he cannot control himself and kisses Re'ut, he immediately proposes marriage. Unsure, she decides to keep dating him, and also sees another man simultaneously. Hodaya profanes the Sabbath for the first time in her life when she lets Avri drive her to the beach, where she tells him the truth. In the meantime, Re'ut begins to lose interest in Yochai. Although intending to consummate her relationship with Avri, Hodaya flinches at the last moment and decides to end their romance, stating the differences between them are too great. Amir begins visiting Yif'at and the two become close friends. Nati tries to approach her again, angering Amir. The two come to blows, but eventually reconcile. Amir and Yif'at decide to marry. After meeting her niece, who was evicted from Gaza and consequently lost her faith, Hodaya resolves to disaffiliate. Re'ut breaks with Yochai and goes on a long trip to India.
After their marriage, Amir and Yif'at must cope with the new hardships, including fertility problems, the need to observe ritual purity. Amir returns to his roots and begins praying in a Tunisian synagogue with an old man named Shmuel. He is frowned upon by his Ashkenazi environment. Nati's mother dies, and his brother Ro'ee moves in with him. Re'ut begins to date Ro'ee, who reveals that he is a homosexual, to his brother's bewilderment. Re'ut refuses to give up on them and continues to date him. Nati falls in love with Dafna, a divorced mother who works in his hospital as a medical clown, though he leaves her after realizing he cannot cope with raising her son. Hodaya, trying to lead a secular lifestyle, works in a pub and meets Asaf, another formerly religious man, with whom she loses her virginity. She breaks with him after discovering that he began practicing again. Ro'ee leaves Re'ut.
Yif'at finally becomes pregnant. Ro'ee has turned ultra-orthodox and entered an arranged marriage. Amir quits his job as a teacher, finds a new one as Re'ut's secretary and finally receives a lifelong tuition to study in a seminary. Nati has a new roommate, a poet named Azaria, who was abandoned by his fiancée, Tehila. Nati falls in love with Tehila but cannot convince her to see him for she vowed to remain single until Azaria will find a new partner. Nati encourages Re'ut to date Azaria, who begins to exploit her for her money. After becoming drunk, he confesses that he does not love her and she abandons him. Tehila starts seeing Nati; he is finally ready to commit and proposes to her, and she seems to accept. Hodaya encounters Avri again. He cancels his own planned wedding and asks her to marry him instead. Hodaya backs off once more, just a few days before the ceremony, leaving him heartbroken. Amir becomes friends with a boy at his yeshiva and goes to work in a ranch in the Negev with him for a few weeks. Hodaya receives a radio show of her own, becomes stressed and quits. Yif'at admonishes her for her constant wavering. Tehila speaks with Azaria, and informs Nati they decided to resume their relationship. Nati sinks into depression. Yif'at delivers her baby prematurely; Re'ut and Hodaya stay with her while Nati drives off to fetch Amir. He must stay in the empty ranch while Amir drives back to Jerusalem. Re'ut comes to bring him back, and they both reconcile with themselves while staying in the desert. Hodaya, who heeded Yif'at's words, gets her job back and reunites with Avri. Amir and Yif'at prepare to take their newborn son home.
Laizy Shapiro and Hava Divon became acquainted while studying in the Ma'ale School of Television, Film and the Arts. In 2005, the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund announced its intention to create a picture about religious-secular relations and held a contest for a script. Shapiro and Divon submitted a treatment for a romantic comedy about a relationship between a bachelor living in Ramat Gan and a young settler from Hebron. Shapiro told he had a similar idea already in his second year in Ma'ale, in 2000. Their entry was rejected, but they met Jonathan Aroch, a veteran producer who served as their mentor during the competition. Aroch suggested they write another outline. Their second script concerned a religious single from Jerusalem named Nati, who is desperate with dating and has resolved to give only another year and then marry the first woman he encounters. This second entry was also declined. Shapiro and Divon returned to their regular jobs.
A year later, Aroch contacted both again, suggesting they make a television series about the religious singles scene in Jerusalem, the so-called "Katamon swamp" or "marsh". A real sociological phenomenon, the "swamp" is the largest concentration of middle-class Religious Zionist men and women who remain unmarried in a relatively advanced aged, a trend causing much strain in their society. Divon and Shapiro created a basic outline for a show, and conceived the five main characters. They planned to name the series, Kovshei Katamon ("Conquerors of Katamon"), which is the name of one of the area's main streets and a reference to the neighborhood's "conquest" by members of the "swamp". The studios refused to accept the title. On 20 July 2006, Ma'ariv first reported about contacts between Aroch and the television companies of Keshet and Yes, concerning the future purchase of the series, labeled under the working title Sex v'ha'Ir haQdosha ("Sex and the Holy City"). It was reported that due to the high production costs expected, the companies considered broadcasting it first on satellite and later on terrestrial television, to ensure maximal revenues.
After Yes bought the rights, Aroch hired a group of screenwriters, many of them Ma'ale alumni and residents of the "swamp" themselves. Divon, Shapiro and their team wrote a full screenplay for a first season of fifteen episodes. Shapiro was also chosen to direct it. Auditions were held in September and October 2007. Towards the end of the second month, Aroch himself selected the final name of the show, Srugim – alluding to the crocheted skullcaps worn by national religious men, which distinguish them from other sectors. Principal photography was held in the winter of 2008. All studio filming was carried out in Tel-Aviv, but external photography was made in Jerusalem and in Nofei Prat, which served as the fictional settlement to which Yif'at moves.
The second season was shot in the summer of 2009. Principal photography of the third season began on 21 February 2010. In early May 2012, though the last season was considered the most successful insofar, Shapiro and Divon announced they would not produce a fourth one, and the show was terminated.
The first season aired on the satellite channel Yes Stars on 23 June 2008 and ended on 6 October. It became an immediate success, reaching the third place among satellite shows on its day of transmission. However, most of its audience watched it via the internet, on Yes' website: the first episode had 240,000 hits within days of being posted on the web. The interest Srugim generated in the Religious Zionist sector was the main source of its popularity; many of its more conservative viewers did not even own a television due to religious grounds. To answer public demand, Shapira organized public screenings across the country, for which tickets were sold. Five weeks after the premiere, Yes announced that it intended to commission another season in light of the show's success. A week before the next one aired, the first season's episodes had 3,000,000 views on the net.
Keshet also purchased the show and ran the first season on the terrestrial Channel 2 between 18 April and 25 July 2009. All the fifteen episodes entered the weekly lists of the 20 most popular shows on television. In average, the Israel Audience Research Board estimated it had a rating of 13.85%, a share of 22.4% and an audience of 251,000 households. Its highest record was reached with the 13th episode, broadcast on 11 July, which had a 16.9% rating, 29% share and a viewership of 309,000 households. The season's lowest point was the 6th episode, on 23rd May, which had a 10.5% rating, 16% share and an audience of 191,000 households.
The second season was broadcast on Yes Stars between 10 January and 9 May 2010. During its airing, it was the most viewed show on Yes' website for February and May, and the second most viewed for March and April. The first episode was the site's most popular upload for 2010 in general. Channel 10 purchased this season and aired it from 16 October 2010 to 29 January 2011. It performed poorly, and had an average rating of merely 4.44%.
The third season aired on Yes between 23 October 2011 and 29 January 2012. The TIM-TNS survey concluded that 11% of all internet users in Israel watched the show via Yes' website in November 2011, and 15% in January 2012, making it the third most popular on the net. The last season was considered both the most commercially and critically successful in the show's history.
Srugim had six nominations in the Israeli Academy of Film and Television Awards Ceremony for 2009, held on 28 August. It won four: the Award for the Best Drama Series; the Award for the Best Script, which went to the writers's team headed by Shapira and Divon; the Award for Best Actress, which was granted to Ya'el Sharoni, and the Award for Best Costume Design, given to Seri Sobol. Shapira was nominated for the Best Director but lost it to Oded Davidoff, who made Pillars of Smoke. Ohad Knoller was nominated for Best Actor, yet the award was won by Moshe Ivgy of The Arbitrator. Tali Sharon was also nominated for the Best Actress for her role in Srugim.
In the 2010 ceremony, held on 13 July, the show had the largest number of nominations for any candidate, with a total of seven: Best Drama, Best Script, Best Director and two double nominations for the Best Actor – to Knoller and Amos Tamam – and Best Actress, again to Sharoni and Sharon. It lost all except one, receiving only the Award for the Best Script. In the 2012 Awards, Srugim was nominated in only one category, for Best Drama, and lost.
Jeffrey Woolf, a Bar-Ilan University expert on Orthodox Jewish portrayals in the media, explains why this series has become popular not only with the secular "TV-watching" community, but also with many members of modern orthodoxy:
It's really the first time that the religious-Zionist community has been represented in a non-stereotyped way on television.... Religious characters are usually cartoon-like in their superficiality, either because of malice or because of ignorance....
He claims that the show is important for both the religious and secular elements, because while many of the modern orthodox viewers can finally see characters with whom they identify, it offers secular viewers access to "an entire [religious] world that is normally inaccessible”.
A number of writers note that the phenomenon of a growing number of Jewish singles in the religious community is one factor in the show's popularity, because it is unprecedented in Jewish history, where marriages between religiously observant men and women traditionally occurred while both partners were young. Many reasons contribute to this change, including the financial ability of women to live on their own, rather than under the "protection" of their husband, but whatever the reasons, this change has created many new questions and challenges in their lives.
Yair Rosenberg writes in the Jewish Review of Books that the program has become "Israeli pop culture phenomenon." However, while he agrees that the show has become extremely popular among members of both the religious and non-religious communities, there have been some detractors, including Rabbi Shlomo Aviner:
One prominent Religious Zionist rabbi went so far as to place the show under a religious ban, citing the questionable conduct of various dati characters on the show. "There is bad language and licentiousness. It is not enough to be 'shomer negiah' [to observe the prohibition against touching someone of the opposite sex], and this is also not always followed [on the show]—one needs purity and modesty," he wrote.
2010 Billboard Controversy
Bus stop posters for the second season of Srugim became the focus of a controversy when it was discovered that the pages of Jewish text used as a background for the poster's images included the Biblical word referred to as the "ineffable name of God," the description used for the Tetragrammaton (four Hebrew letters commonly transliterated into English as YHVH or YHWH).
Complaints from the ultra-orthodox community led to an agreement not only to have the posters taken down, but also that—given the presence of God's name—they would be buried in a genizah [a burial site for sacred texts], not merely discarded.
- "This School Makes Film a Kosher Career Course," The Wall Street Journal, Dec 17, 2008.
- Reina Rutlinger-Reiner. "Drowning in the Marsh": Israeli Orthodox Theatrical Representations of the Singles Scene. Israel Studies, Volume 16, Number 3, Fall 2011, pp. 73-96.
- Danny Spector. Sex and the holy city. YNET, 25 June 2008.
- Elana Maryles Sztokman. The Men's Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World. UPNE, 2011. ISBN 978-1611680799. p. 45.
- Yitzhak Tessler. As 'Srugim' ends, yarmulkes disappear from prime-time TV. YNET, 7 May 2012.
- The Jewish Channel information on Srugim.
- "Americans Glued to Israeli TV as Srugim Debuts," The Jewish Star, Feb 17, 2010.
- Frum Friends Storm Israeli TV, The Jewish Chronicle Online, Jan 21, 2010.
- "Swamped with Singles," Jerusalem Post, Jan 19, 2010.
- "A Modern Orthodox Friends," JewCentral.com, Nov 4, 2009.
- No Sex in the City: On Srugim, Yair Rosenberg, Jewish Review of Books, Spring 2010, 
- Rabbi: It's okay to multi-date if you're old. YNET, 14 August 2008.
- "Saucy billboards to be 'buried' for carrying the name of God," Jan 15, 2010.
- Arutz Sheva, www.Israelnationalnews.com, January 13, 2010, retrieved November 26, 2011.