‘Nobody can go through those tunnels and come back the same person’: IDF veterans speak on Yom ha-Zikaron

Rachel Shalmon in her Toronto home with friend Henry Balaban (centre) and her husband (right) Yoram Shalmon. All three Israeli Canadians served in the IDF during the brief but terrifying days of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. (Ellin Bessner photo)

As Israel and Jewish communities around the world mark Yom ha-Zikaron, the Israeli memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, some Toronto veterans of the Yom Kippur War are remembering the chaos and the fear they experienced during their own military service some 50 years ago. On Oct. 6, 1973, Israel fought Egyptian and Syrian forces after the Arab states launched surprise invasions during Israel’s solemn day of fasting.

Henry Balaban, now 75, served with the Golani infantry brigade in the north, where Syrian soldiers swarmed into the Golan Heights. Yoram Shalmon, 72, served in a tank unit that was the first to cross the Suez Canal into Egypt under General Ariel Sharon. His wife, Rachel Shalmon, served in intelligence.

Since Oct. 7, the veterans have been anxiously following developments in this latest war—the longest in Israel’s modern history. While the 1973 war resulted in the deaths of 2,656 IDF soldiers in just two and a half weeks—triple the IDF’s current losses of more than 700 casualties since Oct. 7—these veterans also worry about the long-term psychological cost for those young men now fighting inside the Hamas tunnels in Gaza.

On today’s special Yom ha-Zikaron episode of The CJN Daily, the veterans offer a fascinating and in-depth perspective on what it’s like to lose your friends and suffer through the fog of war.

What we talked about:

  • Browse the new memorial website by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel listing all 425 Canadians and Americans who were ever killed defending Israel, or in terrorist attacks, including since Oct. 7
  • Learn more about ERAN, the 24-hour mental health hotline for Israelis that Toronto IDF veteran Yoram Shalom volunteers
  • Watch the 2024 memorial service in Israel for North Americans killed in battle, on the AACI Facebook channel


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here. Hear why The CJN is important to me.