The Aging 'Sabra': Representations of elderly Israeli men and masculinity on TV drama


This study combines three disciplinary perspectives: gerontology, gender studies, and media studies. Its objective is expanding knowledge in gender representations in popular media content in Israel. Since the study of gender imagery has so far focused mostly on women's images, we propose to expand the interest that is currently invested in men's media images in Israel. Furthermore, this research has so far mainly included attempts to link between gender, ethnicity, religion, and status, we however propose to add the age variable that has not yet been sufficiently considered. The importance of this dimension is based on the fact that in the 3rd millennium, we all age in a culture that sanctifies youth.

Studies that explore age and gender representations usually focus on characterizing aging versus early life images of women, and pay lesser attention to aging men representations. We believe that in the Israeli case, it is more appropriate to begin with those who contributed to the formation of the youth ethos in the renewed Israeli culture and symbolized the future. In other words, young men who represented the myth of the Sabra, who are now aging . Therefore, we chose to examine their representation modes and the power relationship between characters representing this generational group and other characters in contemporary Israeli TV drama series that deal with the experience of aging, in order to reveal how gendered old conceptions are constructed in contemporary reality.

In the last two decades, Israeli TV channels have produced and broadcast three dramas that focus on the challenges of aging in contemporary culture, and give old characters a major role in their plots: 'Villains' (2010), 'Hasamba Generation 3' (2010), and 'Stockholm' (2018). The analysis of these series assumes that gender and old age are socio-cultural constructions in tension with each other. Israeli culture had been characterized from its early stages with worship of masculinity and youth as well as rejecting femininity and old age, that have become a negative model that represents the diasporic past from which Zionism wished to shake off. We found that the media images of aging men shed light on this tension in view of the rise in the proportion of the elderly population on the one hand, and changes in Israeli masculinity on the other.