Jews faced vast adversity during World War II. To reconcile their community, Zionism was established. Due to the consistent conflict between Jews and the Arabs in the middle east, Palestine was partitioned and the State of Israel was created. Jews accepted the formation of Israel to have sovereignty for their religion but the scheme was rejected by the Arabs. That led to the creation of Arab–Israeli conflict. Valley of Tears narrates one such incident that evolved from the conflict, when in 1973, Arab nations Syria and Egypt breached the Israeli border, leading to the Yom Kippur War.
Valley of Tears also known as Emek HaBakha (Hebrew) is an Israeli War Drama television series in the Hebrew language. The Season 1 includes 10 episodes of over 40 minutes each and majorly focus on the northern front of the war (Israel-Syria War) while a planned second season is going to depict the southern front (Israel-Egypt). Directed by Yaron Zilberman and based on a screenplay by Ron Leshem, the series is narrated from the Israeli point of view and captures the moments when Israel’s northern front, Golan heights was breached by the Syrian Army.
‘Valley of Tears’ Summary
The series begins with a montage supported by a voice over that highlights the root of the cause. In 1967, Israeli army put an end to Israel-Arab conflict by defeating the neighbouring armies. It was a disgraceful humiliation but Israel defended it on the grounds that capture of those lands was necessary to maintain buffer security. However, Syria and Egypt had no intention to give up their lands. Supported by the Soviets, these nations built a massive army and declared war on Israel supported by the USA. The purpose of the attack was to capture back the Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert, the two strategically important lands for the Arabs. Israel was not only threatened by the outside attack, but internally a group called Black Panther, who demonstrated a protest to bring about social justice in Israel before the elections.
On the day of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, an Israeli intelligence officer, Avinoam (Shahar Taboch) intercepts a Syrian broadcast, in which they are evacuating the borderlands. Avinoam smells danger and tries to warn his superiors who are too busy and ignorant of the attack. Avinoam requests lieutenant Yoav Mazoz (who was leaving for Yom Kippur) to stay back and defend the outpost on Hermon Mountain in case of a sudden attack.
Another tank unit, stationed at Tank Park, Golan Heights is waiting for its crew. Jackie Alush (Imri Biton), a Tank gunner, comes to take his friend Marco and Malachi back to the unit. Marco and Malachi are the members of the Black Panther who are popularizing the socialist moment in the country. Alush finds Marco but Malachi is locked in prison for stealing milk. Alush requests Marco to leave without him and they will request the captain to put a request on the higher authority for Malachi’s release. When Marco and Alush reach Golan Heights, a sudden attack takes the unit by surprise and an emergency is declared in the country.
Syrian army also attacked the Israeli outpost on Hermon Mountain and many of the Israeli soldiers circled inside the bunker.
The bells of the emergency introduce the third set of story, where Menny Ben-Dror (Lior Ashkenazi), an Israeli journalist and writer finds out that his son, Yoni has joined the Israel Defense Forces, just to be near his absent father, and has no war experience. Menny’s wife asks him to bring their son, safe and sound. Menny pursue the journey to Golan Heights where in between he meets Marco (who ran away from the prison cell) and a female officer, Dafna, looking out for his love interest Yoav, trapped in Hermon Mountain.
The narrative thus follows the story of these several individuals, all connected by War and their paths merging in the war zone. Every character has their own pursuit, but their greater goal is the same, to bring back the soldiers trapped on the border.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Valley of Tears doesn’t follow a single person or battalion at large. On the contrary, it spotlights three groups of people and their varied motives.
- Avinoam and Yoav are trying to run away from the outpost on Hermon Mountains.
- Alush and his tank unit are conflicted whether to safeguard the Golan Heights or leap back and save themselves.
- Menny, Marco and Dafna infiltrate the already captured Syrian lands to find their loved ones and bring them back safe.
The treatment of all these three narratives is different. The scenes have been approached, keeping in mind the ulterior motive of the people in the narrative. For example, the narrative of Avinoam is treated with the feeling of innocence and avoiding the war. The traits of an officer who doesn’t want bloodshed can be easily pinpointed and highlighted. While on the other hand, the scenes of Alush and the tank unit, majorly demonstrates the emotions and dilemma of the war zone. The bloodshed, the pressure and soldiers losing their own mental balance. Menny’s scenes have an altogether different approach in the beginning. Their scenes are stylish with pop-music filling the ambience, like few stars on their way to save the world.
The differential treatment of the three narratives offers a plethora of emotions to the viewers. A diversity of feelings and structure keeps your eyes glued on the screen.
The Stubborn Seagull Refused to Fly.
All the soldiers and officers are celebrating the holy day of Yom Kippur. No one ever thought of an attack like these, that too on both southern and northern fronts simultaneously. A sudden attack startles the IDF. The same confusion and chaos can be seen in the soldiers too, where the common question between them is, “to fight for the country or run for their lives.” It is not that these soldiers are not courageous enough. It is just that a defense force of countable men and artillery is fighting against the mammoth Syrian and Egyptian army, equipped with high-tech artillery from the Soviets. Yet, the IDF chooses to fight. The drama is built when even after a long waiting period, the Israeli government fails to provide any backup or support to their men on the border. This leads to socialist and patriotic arguments between the men who question their own people. Small traces of the Black Panther movement have been ingeniously plotted in the narrative that keeps the drama intact. However, under no circumstance, Valley of Tears puts blame on the Arabs for the attack or killing their people. It balances the opinions, or rather focuses on the more important question, to safeguard your men, before you safeguard your ideologies. It was for a similar reason when the innocent men are dead, the first season of the series ends, with the text what came after. It is right after, no one is interested in war and killing, but how men suffered in between them. Valley of Tears captures such emotions beautifully.
An Unwanted War – Conflict of Ideologies
A very disheartening scene that still seems fresh in my memory. While running away from the Hermon Island Avinoam comes across a very young Syrian soldier. Avinoam who is young too and was bullied all his life keeps a Hedgehog with him, who is his only friend. The Hedgehog runs towards the young Syrian soldier. Avinoam requests him not to kill his hedgehog. The Syrian soldier says that he is not going to kill it, but he is thirsty. This leads to a short beautiful friendship between the conflicted nation, blinded by humanity and sharing. Further dialogues between Avinoam and Syrian soldiers create an emotional palette where they both discuss the beauty of their nations and offer each other to visit once there is peace. It is through Avinoam and the young Syrian, the writer and director put down their belief that it is not the young men who want to fight. Their minds and body are exploited by the powerful politicians who want to popularise their own propaganda and feel authoritative about it. These young soldiers wish to go to the beach, enjoy their lives and not kill or get killed before 18. When you send a soldier, who hasn’t even seen life and romance properly to borderland, what mental life he will lead, with all those dead faces haunting him throughout his life?
In another, extremely powerful and thought-provoking scene, when a captured Yoav is interrogated by a Syrian officer, the Syrian puts down his opinion on the table. He tells Yoav that the Zionists extremist, after the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 labeled the Arabs of the state as refugees. His children lived in Palestinian refugees camp who were driven out in ‘48. A whole group of people, thus lost their identity, their roots, and their recognition, just due to the formation of a new independent state who wanted to prove its sovereignty. The errors of the past are now leading to the chaos of the present and the hatred is deep-rooted now. It is the one and only time when Valley of Tears showcases the Arabs point of view in the narrative. All the other political opinions come from black panthers through Marco and Malachi who want to bring about socialist reforms in Israel and thus, put an end to this power game and hunger for border expansion in the name of safety.
Valley of Tears is not a generic war series that popularizes or showcases heroes of the war. On the contrary, it is dedicated to those fallen in the Yom Kippur War and the family members impacted by it.
‘Valley of Tears’ Ending Explained
A lot many soldiers are either dead or captured by the Syrian and Egyptian Armies. Yoav, Alush and many other Israeli soldiers are taken into captivity by the Syrians. Though, the most desolating event in the Valley of Tears is when Menny loses his son, Yoni. Menny starts his car and leaves the war zone. The series ends, but there is a post-credit scene where you can see Yoni walking on the side-walk in a very dreamy sequence. There are other Jewish men around but no one pays attention to bruised Yoni in a crumbled army uniform spoiled with blood. When Yoni enters a public library, the ignorance remains the same, except for an old Jewish priest, who wears his glasses and looks at Yoni. This priest could be Menny, though it is hard to recognise. Maybe Menny kept Yoni alive in his memories and he meets him often, fulfilling his promise and correcting his past.
The second season of Valley of Tears is already planned and is going to showcase the southern front of the war, where the Israeli army will defend the borders from the Egyptian army whose presence was omitted in Season 1. From my perspective, season 2 will bring about new characters, as the characters in season 1 will already be fighting against the Syrians. Hence, it could be stated as the standalone season 2 too. Will keep you updated.
Valley of Tears is one of the most expensive TV Series in Israel and the same is evident in each and every frame. The precise writing and direction are above par. It could be stated that it gives stiff competition to Steven Speilberg’s Band of Brothers which is a limited war drama series and universally applauded. However, the narrative of Band of Brothers focuses on a single battalion and thus, it is easier to go on an emotional ride with those men. Valley of Tears isn’t in competition with it. It creates its own space and shines brightly inside it.
If you are looking for a highly engaging drama that titillates your emotions with a variety of feelings on screen, then do watch Valley of Tears. It is in Hebrew language and a better watch with subtitles. Avoid dubs, it spoils the rhythm of words.
Valley of Tears Season 1 is streaming on HBO Max.
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