Warm memories from a battlefield

November 8, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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Down to one tank and facing total defeat at the infamous Valley of Tears tank battle in the Valley of Tears during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, commander Avigdor Kahalani invoked an ancient Aramaic code to fool the Syrians into believing he had 41 tanks in the hope that his communications commander would understand he was down to one…both got the appropriate message and in Sydney last week Kahalani met the daughter of his communications commander for the first time.

Roni Shorer, Avigdor Kahalani and Shachal Shorer   pic: Henry Benjamin

Roni Shorer, Avigdor Kahalani and Shachal Shorer pic: Henry Benjamin

Shalom Arad

Shalom Arad at 33

When Shalom Arad heard the words ‘LASHON SAGI NAHOR” he knew that whatever he heard next, the opposite would be true. Kahalani initially told him he had 40 tanks before adding “Oh I’ve spotted another one”. Arad knew that meant Kahalani was down to one tank.  Arad passed the message on to Yanusch Ben-Gal, commander of the 7th division fighting on the Golan who immediately dispatched six more tanks to reinforce Kahalani’s 77th Armoured Brigade. Shortly after, the charismatic commander of the 77th noticed that the Syrians had fled…in the face of 34 imaginary tanks.

Kahalani could have surrendered but fought on. Many believe that had this battle been lost, Tel Aviv could have fallen and the Brigadier-General was awarded Israel’s highest military honour the Medal of Valor.

Kahalani visited Masada College in the Sydney suburb of St Ives last week to relate his experiences to students on behalf of the Jewish National Fund. He was approached by 42-yr-old Roni Shorer and her 13-yr-old son Shachal who told him: “I am the daughter of Shalom Arad…the 7th division communications officer who received and understood your message.”

It was an eye-watering meeting for the 69-yr-old retired Brigadier-General who was particularly saddened to learn that Shalom Arad had passed away six years ago.

Shorer told J-Wire: “He was very emotional and asked me where my father is buried and told me he will visit his grave in the cemetery in Kiryat Tivon on his return to Israel. He also he will visit my mother Hanna who still lives there.

The two men were both career soldiers but lost touch with each other when they left the army where Shalom Arad attained the rank of  three star general.

Shorer, who is a UIA shaliach in Sydney, has special reason to cherish this meeting. She said: “My father was born in Rome and in 1949 when he was two, my grandparents received papers allowing them to emigrate to Melbourne but because of family they decided to go to Israel instead. I am very proud to be able to honour my grandparents’ memory be being a Shaliach in Australia. Of course I knew the Kahalani story but this was the first time I ever met him and he was stunned when I told him who I am.”

She added: “Kahalani told me how close he had been to my father saying that I look just like him.

Israeli losses in the 1973 Yom Kippur War numbered over 2.600. Shorer said: “My father stayed strong on the surface but could not hide his grief.”

Brigadier-General [ret’d] Avigdor Kahalani is now on his way back to Israel where he will stand at the grave of the man who understood his Aramaic code and because of whom, the two may well lay claim to having saved Israel from a tragic defeat.






One Response to “Warm memories from a battlefield”
  1. Jeff (shuki) says:

    I served in the same area at these times too. On the canal twice, The 1967-8 War of Attrition, every day 2 or 3 men killed and the 73 Yom Kippur War. 40 years ago now! There’s not many of us left these days but I’m sure, those of us that are, like me, can still shed the tears and lose sleep from time-to time. On the first day in 73, the best friend ever in my life, David Jacobs of Haifa was killed less than 500 metres away from where I was. He left a wife and two little daughters under the age of 3 years. His wife committed suicide two years later. On the second day of the war, his brother Alan, resting in a trench on The Golan, was woken by a female soldier and told to immediately leave the battlefield and go home. He was not told why but had a bad feeling something terrible had happened. When he arrived home, Alan’s wife told him that his brother had been killed. At this same time, Allan’s wife had been pregnant – in shock she lost the baby. Within another few days we lost another 21,000 men and women on the field and, not counting what it did to those of us that were left. T.L. we and our people won the war but, even now, at the age of 82 it still lays heavy on my heart but, no problem, I’d do it all again if I had to.

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