Viewer's Guide

One season (2020)
10 one-hour episodes
Available on HBO
(Official HBO Trailer)

Created by: Ron Leshem

Grade Level: High School and up

Synopsis:

On the first day of Yom Kippur, a surprise attack thrusts young combatants into battle. Inspired by the true events of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, this harrowing drama series focuses on the universality of heroism and sacrifice through four intertwined stories: a journalist searching for his estranged, newly-enlisted son; a commander and an intelligence analyst forced to flee their base near the Syrian border; three friends on a tank crew facing political and personal conflicts; and a female officer who remains on the frontlines, despite orders to evacuate. Through its magnified, unflinching lens, Valley of Tears reveals the tension, anxiety, and trauma of a fateful war.

 

Themes:

  • Friendship/Family/Camaraderie
  • The effects of battle and war (PTSD, etc.)
  • Ethnic and socioeconomic diversity within Israel
  • Peace and hope

Synopsis of Episode 4, "Strength of My Foes":

Beyond hope of rescue and with no way of returning to safety, Marco leads the 87th in a rebellion to subdue Caspi. At the foot of the mountain, Yoav, Avinoam, and the Hermon soldiers find themselves in a brutal ambush and, later, Avinoam makes an unlikely connection with a Syrian soldier. As communications begin to collapse, Dafna tries to restore order back at her tumultuous command post.

 

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe a time when your conception of someone or something changed after a new experience. How and why did your conception change?
  • What themes or values do you think unite humanity, if any? What themes or values divide people? Which values are most important to you?
  • The Hebrew title of the series is Sh’at Neila, a reference to the Neila prayer service that concludes Yom Kippur. Neila is seen as the last time to offer prayers and repentance during the holiest day of the year. Why might the creators have chosen to name this series after a specific part of Yom Kippur?

Additional Materials

The Yom Kippur War:

On Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Israel was taken by surprise in 1973 when Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked the country’s thinly-manned borders. Despite Israel’s ultimate success as the fighting continued, the war was considered a devastating military failure. In total 2,688 Israeli soldiers were killed and more than 9,000 were wounded. It remains a source of national trauma to this day.

Values in Tension Activity:

Often when we disagree with others, we may assume that we do not have shared values. This is a theme throughout Valley of Tears. You can use this activity to illustrate that we often do have shared values—and our differences lie in the way we approach and prioritize them. Recognizing the possibility of shared values, and the complexity of both sides, may allow us to better understand those whose opinions we do not share.

 

Behind the Scenes of Valley of Tears:

Get to know those behind Valley of Tears with these interviews:

 

PTSD and Other Effects of War and Battle:

According to the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma: "Over ten percent of Israel's population suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a statistic that is three times greater than in the United States." Besides soldiers who witnessed battles and death, sufferers include children and adults living in conflict areas such as kibbutzim and villages around the Gaza Strip and survivors of terror attacks.

Many of the characters in the series suffer from some form of PTSD and trauma, and for each it is manifested in a different way. The devastation of mind and spirit affects their lives and the lives of those who love them for years to come.