From left to right: Newton, Katsar, Itzik, and Moti, sitting at the Bus Farm.
Get a degree, find a job, make a career—
Find the one, start a family, take a high-interest mortgage—
Go to the gym three times a week, buy a 20,000 shekel bike, take proper care of yourself!—
Chase, achieve, surpass, consume, realise, dress up, plan, finance, make a profit, use, calculate, dance, build, wreck, scheme, develop, quit your job, stand out, break out, succeed—
But why should you? Just live.
—The show’s promo
Asfour (Hebrew: עַסְפוּר) is an Israeli dramedy series written by Khanan Savyon and Gai Amir, directed by Rani Sa‘ar, and produced by Sumayoko productions.The series tells the story of Moti Amoyal, a man in his early thirties who decided to ‘quit the rat race’: he lives with his three best friends, Itzik Bensuli, Ra‘anan ‘Katsar’ Avital, and Morley ‘Newton’ Avital, on a little lot Moti inherited from his grandfather, with old unused buses (hence the nickname ‘the Bus Farm’) used as houses and a built-in shower and kitchen and anything they need, in the outskirts of Jerusalem. Moti has a job washing bodies before their funerals and Itzik works at a local garage, while Katsar and Newton get their food from a local soup kitchen.The trouble starts when Moti is informed by the Jerusalem city hall that he has a debt of 750,321 NIS, due to his late grandfather allowing criminals to use the place as a dumping ground for their waste. He has two months to get the sum, lest the four get evacuated and have nowhere to live.This just gets more complicated, as it turns out that Moti, in a trip to India he had before the show began, had a passionate romance with an Israeli traveller he found there. Said woman, Shir Ambar, is now back in Israel, and her boyfriend, ‘Amit Peled, trying to impress his father Yaïr into getting his father’s appreciation and a promotion (he works for his father’s insurance company, Peled Insurance), is doing everything in his power to make Moti and his friend fail at getting the money and get the lot for himself, as he finds out the city hall has big building plans for the lot, making it worth millions.Add to that a Love Triangle with both Moti and ‘Amit trying to get and hold onto Shir, Shir’s best friend friend Yuli Barkai and her quest for love, some shady connections to organised crime, Moti’s complicated relationship with his family, Moti’s sister Sivan trying to get the money for the class trip to Polandnote Israeli sophomore students usually go to Poland to see the ghettos, concentration camps, and whatnot to get a seriously toned down experience of what the Holocaust was like. Students usually raise the money to go themselves, but often help each other out. The trip is quite controversial, partially due to its high costs, as students have to pay extra for keeping all the food kosher, even though many students couldn’t care less about kosher laws. and budding romance with her shady classmate Tavor, mix it all up with the recurring themes of social casting, morality, and faith and you got one of the most critically acclaimed series in Israeli Television ever.
This series provides examples of:
Abusive Parent: Itzik’s father. The gang mentions he used to beat Itzik before the latter ran away from home (they said he frequently gave him kafotnote כָּאפוֹת, sing. kafa כָּאפָה, an open-hand blow either to the back of the head or neck or to the face; when delivered to the face, it differs from a slap in that a kafa uses the whole arm or forearm instead of a flick of the wrist, but the fact it was so bad he ran from home implies it was likely more than just that). They treat it lightheartedly, saying he deserved every kafa he got.
Ambiguous Disorder: Zvulun ‘Zuta’ Khajbi. He has a strange body language and style of speech and is constantly seen filling lottery tickets, waiting to win (he eventually does, but gets hit by a bus; he survives and initiates a brief subplot). He could also be somewhat mentally retarded, though he hasn’t shown any signs of poor deductive abilities, and, in fact, found an interesting and original way to protect his winning lottery ticket.
The Atoner: Itzik. Once, he makes amends with a religious woman he slept with and ruined her shidduch (amusingly, she wanted him to sleep with her again, this time with her as a dominatrix). Twice, he, together with Newton and Katsar, asks Moti burn him alive, saying what they did was entirely unforgivable. Moti only softens up when Newton clumsily screws up pouring gas over himself, making everyone laugh.
Berserk Button: Do not, repeat, do not threaten Moti’s life around Victor.
Betty and Veronica: Moti and ‘Amit. YMMV on which is which, as Moti leads a simple life while ‘Amit leads a more high-class life, yet everyone expects Shir to follow conventions and be with ‘Amit instead of living on a ‘bus farm’.
Beware the Nice Ones: Moti and Victor. It’s nigh impossible to get Moti really furious, and Victor seems to be a nice person in his few appearances, but you should never, ever cross the line with those two.
Bilingual Bonus: Watching the gang talk in their special Jerusalem jargon tends to make one feel that way. It doesn’t help that occasionally some words are difficult (or even impossible) to understand from context, and that cultural memes like the tishpishtinote Mediterranean walnut and semolina cake and the dola and zurnanote a traditional wedding dance among Kurds and Turks are usually not understood by common Israelis.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Avigail, Shir’s mother, is a subversion. She tends to act like that to Moti, finally even publicly calling him a thief after he tried proposing to Shir with a ring he didn’t know Itzik had stolen from Avigail, but it’s all due to genuine concern for her daughter.
Bittersweet Ending: The first season’s would have been a Downer Ending, had it not been for the fact that Tavor is, despite everything, back on the straight and narrow, and Itzik is not only alive, but he also gets to be with Juliet.
Book Dumb: Newton. He is actually not quite as stupid as he tends to think he is every now and then.
Bury Your Gays: Tsuf and Saragousti. The only gay character that doesn’t die is Yaniv, Katsar’s and Newton’s cousin, who just shows up for a brief striptease session and never says a word.
Cannot Spit It Out: Moti never tells Shir he left her because he knew their positions in society were too far apart (he comes from a poor family, the son of a poor night guard; she is from the very top of society, the daughter of the late Mikhael Ambar, a very successful criminal lawyer), or why he was troubled around her (he overheard Avigail badmouthing him in front of Shir over the phone, when Shir accidentally answers his phone call instead of filtering it). Also, his code of honour never lets him rat out his friends, even after they’re no longer his friends. This is why he never tells anyone how he got the ring, even after Itzik confesses he stole it.
Cassandra Truth: Itai won’t listen to Shir when she tells him Saragousti is gone.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Averted. Skin tone and non-Ashkenazi heritage do not prevent anyone from fitting into high society. Invoked only once when Sivan accused her friend Mor of bigotry when she expressed suspicion at Tavor.
Sivan: Just because he has one more pigment than you do makes you think you’re better than him! You’re being a hypocrite and it’s getting on my nerves!
Defeat Means Friendship: By the end of season 1, Moti gets to keep his land and ‘Amit gets Shir, meaning they both got something they fought the other for. In the end of the second last episode, Moti shares a peaceful drink with ‘Amit on the Farm.
Delusions Of Grandeur: Averted. Newton often misuses expressions from higher registers, producing gems like ‘Tiberian horsenote Sounds more like ‘Trojan horse’ in Hebrew’ and ‘don’t add oil to the kummsitz’note ‘don’t add oil to the bonfire’ (אַל תּוֹסִיף שֶׁמֶן לַמְּדוּרָה al tosif shemen lam'dura) is an Israeli expression meaning ‘don’t make matters worse’; a kummsitz (lit. ‘come-sit’ in Yiddish, קומזיץ in Hebrew characters) is a small scale social gathering around a bonfire, and he goes by the nickname ‘Newton’, but no-one thinks he’s particularily sophisticated, including himself (as he explained in a self-deprecating little rant to Orli), though he is mostly just Book Dumb.
Did They or Didn't They?: After a night of heavy drinking, Katsar wakes up next to Newton’s now ex-girlfriend Orli. He panics. He later finds out he just got drunk, vomited all over himself, and crashed in Orli’s hotel room. She cleaned his clothes and let them dry in the bathroom to hang.
Disproportionate Retribution: Jackito gives Itzik, Newton, and Katsar a rather poor sum for their stolen jewelry. Later, Itzik turns him in to the police. Justified, as this is part of his deal with the police, in exchange for a clean record.
Distracted by the Sexy: Itzik is tempted to stay a bit too long with his, ahem, ‘ladyfriend’ who works for city hall. He makes it back to the Bus Farm in the nick of time to tell Moti not to sell the lot to ‘Amit.
Domestic Abuser: Kobi is this to his wife when she wants them to discuss their relationship, implying they’re miserable.
Double Standard: Kobi constantly cheats on his wife and barely even bothers to see her. He just supports her financially and goes on with his daily business. When his wife has an affair with Itzik, Kobi becomes determined to kill him, even before he knew who it was.
The Chick: Sivan. She starts off as somewhat of a Sixth Ranger, as Itzik hooks up with her at first without realising who she is, causing brief and mild drama. Later on she becomes something between this and the Tagalong Kid or an inversion of the Cool Big Sis.
Freudian Excuse: Tavor says his life of crime was because he’s ‘never had anyone to make [him] sandwiches for school’ ever since he was a kid. As he lives on his own in his own apartment, it’s implied his family neglected him.
Yaïr qualifies too, as he was mean to ‘Amit because he thought he was stealing his wife from him when he was a kid, making him extra-mean to him.
Kobi might qualify, as Saragousti damn near blew his head off when he caught him having sex with another man.
G.I.R.L.: One of the identities the gang assumes for their online Poker scheme.
Good People Have Good Sex: Downplayed. Newton turns out to be mind-blowing good in bed. He’s not some outstanding moral beacon, but he does have his moments, he does get punished when he tries using underhanded tricks to get the money, and he is shown to be a bit naïve.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Victor was shown smoking a hookah. Practically everyone smokes pot. The more morally ambiguous Itzik and Kobi smoke cigarettes.
Gratuitous English: Slipping occasional English phrases is an indicator of high social standing. ‘Amit does this a lot. This is in contrast with the gang’s language, which is riddled with expressions from Arabic, Kurdish, etc.
Grey and Grey Morality: Moti, though he seems to be a very, very moral person, seems to have a rather strange view on morality, claiming that it’s OK to fool the IRS because they’re ‘faceless’.
As a matter of fact, this is pretty much what gets the whole plot going (see Laser-Guided Karma below).
Groin Attack: Brief scene played for laughs. Katsar kicks the ball at Newton’s soft spot during a game of penaltiesnote that is, a game in which two players take turns trying to kick the ball past their opponent into his/her ‘goal’, practically leaving out the whole footy part and leaving just the penalties.
Played more seriously when Shir knees a police higher-up who hits on her, threatening to release info about him if he doesn’t reveal info about her father.
Heroic Sacrifice: Played straight and narrowly averted by Itzik. He turns himself in for stealing the ring in an attempt to make amends with Moti, and in the last two episodes of the season he fakes his own death to incriminate Kobi.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Yuli hides hers from ‘Amit, thinking he’s the father and he wouldn’t want the child. Luckily, it’s not.
Hollywood Atheist: Played with. Moti seems to become more or less faithful (he’s never full-on religious or anything) depending on how good his luck is. The most notable example is his reaction when his teenage friend Hilel dies, telling his rabbi boss God cannot possibly exist.
How We Got Here: The first episode shows Moti, Newton, and Katsar, standing next to a fresh grave, and putting a funeral wreath with a ribbon saying, ‘Farwell, say hi to Zohar’. The show backs up two months, showing only one more scene from the end of the plot at the end of the episode (Shir coming by car in her wedding dress with teary eyes, taking the veil off her head). What exactly happened is revealed entirely only on the last episode.
Ill Girl: A variation, as this case has a young gay man named Tsuf Nakdimon instead. Avigail also counts, as she once has cancer before the show began. She gets it again in the end.
Informed Ability: Shir can, apparently, interpret people and social situations very well; as she put it, she has ‘HD visionnote The series came out when HDT Vs were all the rage’, except when she’s in love. This was only brought up in the introductory short clip about her and never again, possibly justified by the fact she pretty much spends the whole series going in an out of a relationship.
In Name Only: Katsar wears a yarmukle, but barely shows any signs of actually being religious. At one point Moti brings to the Bus Farm a girl he had a relationship with long ago, and asks where his yarmukle is, and he says, ‘In my pocket.’ She is amused and says, ‘Same old Katsar!’
Karma Houdini: Kobi literally gets away with murder, at least as of season 1.
The Lancer: Mor is Sivan’s. Shir might also qualify for a while, as Moti says once that she completes him, making him a better person, a ‘Super-Moti’.
Laser-Guided Karma: Yuli introduces her new boyfriend Bo‘az to Shir. Bo‘az tries to hit on Shir. Shir tricks him into getting handcuffed to the bed with a blindfold on while Yuli tasers him thoroughly. Both ‘Amit and the gang get screwed over for every immoral trick they play for their gains. Saragousti, being the worst offender, gets the worst hit. At the end, it’s Moti’s one entirely selfless act of bringing Tsuf back together with his Haredic brother Sha‘ya that gets them the money, as Tsuf is insanely rich and bequoth it to Moti in gratitude.
Last Name Basis: Saragousti is only known by his last name. Hell, even that might be an alias.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: You better not watch the second seasons trailers unless you know Itzik is not dead.
Make It Look Like an Accident: Shir’s father turns out to have been Moti’s grandfather’s lawyer, killed in a mock-car crash by Saragousti as a warning to Victor to keep letting them dump bodies on his lot.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted. Katsar has plenty of sex, but on the second last episode he tells Mazal that he never orgasms, because he thinks it’s sinful to do it out of marriage, right after having sex with her. He says he never thought there was much of a difference, which makes her give him a blowjob and see for himself.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: A variation. Savyon and ‘Amir, who also play Newton and Katsar respectively, actually match he other person’s character in personality.
Memetic Molester: In-universe example: Newton tells Orli about their childhood friend Yonatan ‘Don’t Touch Me’, who avoided touch like the plague. After a few years they found out it was due to him being a victim of Danny ‘Buddies’, ‘some freak who’d walk around the city park, showing kids his “parrot”note In Hebrew, ‘bulbul’ (pronounced the same in Hebrew) is the equivalent for ‘willie’.’.
Mistaken for Spies: Itzik suspects Shir of being the mole after she makes him stop the Poker scheme. He finds it suspicious she got back together with Moti shortly after ‘Amit failed to make Moti sell him the lot.
Mood Whiplash: When Shir is introduced to the gang and asks how Katsar (קָצַר, Hebrew for ‘short’) got his name. Moti says it was because ‘his father was born with no legs’. This is just a mean joke: Katsar is named so for his short temper.
Moral Guardians: The series was moved to a later hour and limited to viewers aged 18 and up due to egregious use of cannabis.
Mundane Solution: Katsar and Newton both apply for a job at Mazal Okhayun’s pitsutsiyanote פִּצּוּצִיָּה, in standard Hebrew yemamit יְמָמִית, is a sort of an Israeli hybrid between a kiosk and an American convenience store.. She gives them the ‘100 Test’: she gives them the imaginary scenario of a man walking in with exactly 100 NIS to spend. Both then have to find items that cost exactly 100 NIS in total. Newton goes first, grabs an assortment of products, reaching about 94 NIS. Katsar, in turn, says, ‘Three Gato Negrosnote ‘Gato Negro’ is the name of a brand of poor wine..’ He wins: Newton never noticed the sign saying ‘SALE: 3 Gato Negros for 100 NIS’.
Neck Lift: After Itzik tells Moti about the cable scheme, the ring, and how they lost all their money in the Poker scheme, Moti furiously jumps on Itzik, knocking him down, and nearly strangles him to death (Newton and Katsar can be heard shouting, ‘He’s going purple!’). He doesn’t lift him up and does this out of sheer fury, but considering how Itzik tried getting the money behind his back and turning Katsar and Newton against him, this can be an assertion of dominance.
Noodle Incident: We might have a clue, based on Itzik’s most obvious defining trait, but what exactly happened between him and Mazal is never brought up in full. All we know is that Mazal hates Itzik’s guts.
No Periods, Period: Yuli thinks she’s pregnant with ‘Amit’s child because she hasn’t had her period. Turned out she stopped having periods beforehand, that was just normal ‘bleeding’; the child was conceived during previous sex with Itai.
Oh, Crap: Itzik finds out he’s been having an affair with Kobi’s wife.
One-Hour Work Week: Itai. Then it turns out to be a cover up; he is actually an undercover cop.
Pride: Itzik never should have continued the Poker and cable schemes behind Moti’s back.
Pull the Thread: Newton goes on a date with a Hebrew University student named Orli. He pretends to be a student of architecture, but it turns out he didn't think to check his facts: there is no architecture faculty in Jerusalem, and Orli thinks he goes every day to the Tel-Aviv University to study there (that’s about one hour by car in either direction, if you’re lucky enough to avoid traffic). Newton decides to stop lying, tell her his true situation, which makes her think of him as honest and refreshing, soon becoming his girlfriend.
Ragequit: Katsar does this to Newton as he’s about to lose a game of Backgammon, to make it a ‘technical loss’ that somehow ‘doesn’t count’.
The Reveal: The last episode reveals Saragousti survived Victor’s vicious attack, only to become severely retarded and completely unable to function. Kobi has been keeping as the now retarded shell of a man, was not the one behind Kobi; Kobi used him to pretend he was ‘Just Following Orders’ and had information of someone greater than himself.
Separated by a Common Language: Invoked. When the gang goes to open a bank account to save money while high, Katsar asks the clerk, a woman, who is already impatient towards them, for a metsitsanote מְצִיצָה, lit. ‘sucking’, as in ‘the action of sucking something out of something else; pl. metsitsot מְצִיצוֹת. She kicks them out angrily (as this word means ‘blowjob’ anywhere in Israel but Jerusalem), and they explain they were referring to the lolipops (that’s what that word means in Jerusalem) on the table.
Small Reference Pools: Averted. The setting is in Jerusalem, where, frankly, relatively few cinematic works seem to take place. The characters, especially the gang, use loads of Jerusalem slang most Israelis have to interpret from context. Two words had to be given a translation in parentheses in the closed captions.
Sophisticated as Hell: Newton explains his plan (with a drawing board and a silly attempt at looking organised and formal and all that jazz) to get Zuta’s winning lottery ticket for their money laundering scheme. His explanation begins thus:
Newton: Zuta, as we all know, is a son of a whore.
Title Drop: The first episode has Victor calling Moti ‘Asfour’ (from Arabic عصفور ʿaṣfūr, ‘a swallow’), saying it’s some sort of a bird that brings good fortune. Later on it’s used in its other meaning: Israeli law-enforcing jargon for ‘police informant’.
Undercover Cop Reveal: Obviously Itai. He gives Shir bold hints about it to Shir because of her snooping around.
Unusual Euphemism: Newton asks Katsar whether he played hanakhash banote הַנָּחָשׁ בָּא, lit. ‘the snake is coming’, an Israeli children game in which a group of kids surround one kid who declares, ‘The snake is coming,’ then swings a piece of rope or a long stick in a circle, eliminating anyone who fails to jump the rope/stick in time; this is done several times till everyone is eliminated. Pretty much the same concept as the Sweeper from Wipeout. with Orli.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Downplayed and occasionally subverted. ‘Amit tries to get his father’s approval due to a great part to the promotion his father put up for him. He also doesn’t seem to obsess to much about it, even threatening to leave his father’s company. It turns out Yaïr resents his son because he felt ‘Amit ‘stole’ his wife from him, tearing their marriage apart before her untimely death. Moti also has issues with his father, Reuven, who strongly disapproves of his son’s lifestyle, to the point Moti generally avoids his father when he comes to visit and his father doesn’t hesitate to call him a thief at one crucial point. Moti doesn’t want to live up to his father’s expectations, but rather to accept his way of life.
Witness Protection: Itzik gets to live in hiding from Kobi with Juliette under the name Izho.
What Did I Do Last Night?: Katsar never remembers anything he did once he becomes sober. The gang, in their usual Running Gag, tell him he does all sorts of crazy stuff when he’s drunk, which he believes. Moti finally tells him about it when Katsar tells him he slept with Orli while drunk and doesn’t remember it. That’s how Katsar realises he never slept with Orli.
You Can't Fight Fate: deconstructed. Moti claims this on the first episode adn the theme is explored, but it generally seems characters believe in it mostly in relation to good profecies and when they’re luck turns for the better.