“Valley of Tears,” a 10-episode miniseries about the Yom Kippur War, is the highest budget Israeli TV series in history. The series was created and written by Ron Leshem, Amit Cohen and Daniel Amsel, with Yaron Zilberman directing every episode. Leshem, who’s currently based in Boston, is best known for creating the original “Euphoria” and executive producing its American HBO remake. HBO Max is streaming “Valley of Tears” in the United States, releasing a new episode every Thursday, and based on the first two episodes, it looks to be very worth watching.
In 1973, Israel was not expecting another war. After its decisive victory in the Six-Day War six years earlier, it was thought that no other country would dare attack Israel. It’s amidst this misplaced sense of confidence that Egyptian and Syrian forces, backed by the Soviet Union, launched attacks during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. The war ultimately ended in a ceasefire after a couple of weeks, but the extensive casualties shattered any sense of peace.
Many of the characters face as much conflict from their fellow Israelis as they do the enemy forces. Nerdy wiretapper Avinoam’s warnings about the coming attacks are dismissed by the Israel Defense Forces brass, and he spends much of these first two episodes mistreated and struggling to be taken seriously. The soldiers Marco, Alush and Melakhi are all members of the Israeli Black Panthers, a group that centered on the plight of Sephardi and Mizrahi immigrants. The scariest moment in these first two episodes involves a particularly traumatic scene of “friendly fire.”
“Valley of Tears” is an intense viewing experience. The first episode leaves off in the midst of battle and the second episode continues the relentless action and horror. If you’re in the right state of mind for this sort of heavy historical drama, “Valley of Tears” promises to be potentially one of the most gripping new shows streaming this fall.
An important disclaimer: HBO Max automatically plays “Valley of Tears” in a poorly done English dub that completely ruins the naturalism of the performances. (As if to emphasize how off the dubbing is, the conversations in Arabic are still subtitled rather than dubbed, and the difference between these moments and the dubbed ones is night and day). Be sure to click the tiny hidden “עברית” button next to “Add to my list” to watch the show in its original Hebrew format with English subtitles.
“Valley of Tears” is streaming on HBO Max.