Photo Credit: courtesy Lubavitch.com
Satellite phones allow the Kathmandu Chabad House volunteers to pinpoint the location of backpackers while out trekking around the Himalayans.

A new project to keep backpackers safe as they search for serenity while trekking around Nepal has been launched by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz and his co-emissary and wife Chani Lifshitz, after help from the Shoham family in Israel.

The new initiative provides hikers in the Himalayan mountains with satellite phones, which allow volunteers at the Chabad House to keep track of their movements and also stay in touch with them in case anything goes amiss.

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Nadav Shoham was one of four Israelis killed last year in a blizzard while climbing the Himalayan mountain range. His family decided to team up with Chabad to prevent such a tragedy from happening again in the future.

Thousands of IDF soldiers typically head for Nepal as soon as their tour of duty has ended. Most of them pass through the Kathmandu Chabad House, also famous for having the biggest annual seder in the world, at the highest point on earth.

It is that unique perspective – and the breathtaking views from the surrounding mountain range – that draws hikers to the site, which is remote and dangerous, with little or not cell phone reception in many places on the mountainside.

Chabad is often called in on rescue missions when hikers go missiing.

Following last year’s tragedy and because the problem is so terribly common, the two came up with a solution: satellite phones for hikers to take with them on their treks up the mountains.

“The phones let us know exactly where trekkers are when a tragedy hits,” Chani Lifshitz told Lubavitch.com. In this way, rescue units can pinpoint the location of those in trouble and avoid losing time “guessing where they may be in this huge region.”

Satellite phones transmit the movements of the hikers to the computer in Kathmandu where Lifshitz and volunteers can track them to see whether they are still on their designated paths, or they have gotten lost. The devices also allow them to reach anyone they believe might need their help.

“We want the families of those who were so tragically killed last year (during the unusual October storm) to know that we will never forget their loved ones,” Lifshitz said. “This project will prevent more casualties.”

No one would have even known that trekkers were in trouble, had it not been for one hiker who wrote a note about the crisis on the mountainside and sent it via a local Nepali who knew the terrain back down the mountain. That person managed to find another Israeli who had access to a phone, who called the Israeli embassy. The embassy reached out to the Kathmandu Chabad House, which quickly swung into action recruiting its cadre of volunteers.

“We also want to assure parents of trekkers that if they are ever worried about their children, we will now have a better way of accessing them,” Lifshitz added.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.