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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Nepal’

Israeli Sherpa ‘Pony Express’ Saved Hundreds in Nepal Blizzard

Monday, October 20th, 2014

It was the next best thing to the Pony Express, and an outright miracle that appeared out of nowhere. Last week four Israelis died and at least a dozen others were injured; but at least 250 Israelis were saved and hundreds of others as well, because a group was resourceful.

Seizing a ‘window of opportunity’ when it came galloping by, a group of Israelis huddled in a tiny wooden shack – a tea house in the mountain pass of Thorong La — over writing a call for help in Hebrew as a Himalayan blizzard raged outside.

“There are Israelis trapped in the tea shop at the pass,” wrote Rotem Snir. “Lives are in danger. Help us. Thank you.”

A Nepali porter took their note and rode out on horseback into the storm, hoping to reach the camp they described passing on their way up the mountain. They themselves were stuck at 18,000 feet above sea level, and for the remainder of the storm would remain there – a decision that saved their lives.

The porter, meanwhile, found three Israeli hikers and delivered the note.

Upon reading it, they immediately contacted the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu.

The local Chabad House was transformed into a command center. The Kathmandu Chabad House sees hundreds – make that thousands – of Israeli backpackers every year; it’s the traditional pit stop on the way up or down the Himalayas. It’s also the venue for the biggest seder in the world – at the top of the world – one where the supplies literally have to be brought in on horseback.

Rabbi Yechezkel Lifshiftz, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Kathmandu and head of the Chabad House, responded to the flood of emails from worried parents and constantly updated a Google spreadsheet with data on Israelis who were out in the storm.

Israeli volunteers helped work the phones and exchange information with the Israeli Embassy.

More than 400 Israelis were on the “watch and pray” list, coded by trekking agency.

By Monday, search teams were wrapping up operations, and at the Kathmandu Chabad House, an Israeli psychotherapist was scheduled to lead a group session. The bulletin board showed that medical care was available from Israeli doctors.

Those who stayed in the teahouse discovered how miraculous it was that they had managed to reach shelter when they did.

One of the group, Jacob Megreli, 24, told the Wall Street Journal that he and another man rescued an Israeli buried in snow that rose higher than his head. Only the tips of his upraised hands showed above the sparkling white trail, tipping off the searchers. After that, he told the New York-based newspaper, his group found at least one body every 20 minutes along the trail.

Of the hundreds who made it to safety that Monday in the storm, 200 to 250 were Israelis, according to embassy figures. Hundreds more were from other nations. Nepali villagers, mountain guides and helicopter pilots worked tirelessly to rescue whoever they could.

By Wednesday, when the storm cleared out, 33 people had lost their lives, according to Nepal’s Home Ministry. Four were Israeli.

Had it not been for the miracle of a tiny wooden teahouse, a piece of notebook paper and a Sherpa pony express, who knows how many more …

Body of 4th Missing Israeli Hiker Recovered in Nepal

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The mountain trek of a lifetime has ended for Israeli hiker Michal Gili Charkesky, whose lifeless body was recovered today from the Himalayas.

Israeli and Nepalese searchers found the body of the missing 36-year-old woman on Monday, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, who said her family has been informed of her demise.

Charkesky disappeared in the Himalayas last week along with dozens of other hikers who were caught by surprise in one of the massive snow storms for which the mountain range is well known. The storm and a subsequent avalance so far has claimed the lives of 40, including four Israelis. At least 12 other Israelis were injures.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry told journalists on Monday that its embassy in Kathmandu is in the process of arranging for Charkesky’s body to be returned to Israel.

Keshav Pandey of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal said today (Monday, Oct. 20) was the last day of the search and rescue operation. “After this we can only hope that those who are missing will establish contact with us or with their families,” Pandey said.

“We don’t think that any tourist is missing now. I am getting reports that some local porters and tour guides who were on the trek have not been traced so far,” Pandey added. The search team has rescued more than 250 people.

Among the casualties were hikers from Canada, Israel, Japan, India, Nepal, Poland and Slovakia. Many died while trying to descend in freezing “whiteout” conditions from the highest pass of the 240-kilometer (150-mile) trail around Annapurna, survivors said.

Annapurna is known for its especially dramatic views of scenery that includes crags and hamlets for miles around.

I know My Son in Nepal is OK because VISA Israel Told Me So

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

The VISA credit card company in Israel last week noted that one of its clients withdrew cash from Nepal after the disaster that killed several Israeli trekkers and called the hiker’s father to tell him his son was safe.

The father in this case is yours truly. The trekker is one of our sons, whose trip to India and Nepal was delayed for a week because he was busy shooting at terrorists from his tank as a reserve soldier serving in the Protective Edge campaign against Hamas.

Our son called on the morning before Yom Kippur to say he was leaving India after the fast and traveling to Nepal.

He routinely calls just before Shabbat or a holiday from a Chabad House, where there usually is mobile phone reception and where he joins hordes of other Israelis for Shabbat.

I was writing and listening to the radio last Wednesday morning, several hours before the Shemini AtZereth-Simchat Torah holiday began in Israel, when I heard on the radio that three one or more Israeli reportedly were killed in an avalanche in Nepal.

My first thought was that our son was okay. I don’t know why but I was not too worried. Just to be even calmer, I called my contacts at the Foreign Ministry.

The ministry knew no more than I knew – unconfirmed reports from foreign news agencies, and we agreed to update each other as we gathered information.

Within a minute, our son called from Nepal to wish us Chag Samayach – a happy holiday.

He did not mention the avalanche, but as soon as I asked him about it, he revealed that he was near the area and that there were missing Israelis who went on a hike out of the tourist agency with which he also is registered .

Our son reassured me that although he was “close but far” from the disaster, explaining that he was at a low level in the Himalayas while the trekkers caught in the landslide were much higher.

After trading information with the Foreign Ministry, which was happy to hear our son was safe, I went back to writing about the tragedy, the ISIS and whatever other horrid news there was.

The phone rang again, and after I picked it up and said “Shalom,” the voice on the other stated, “Are you Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, father of “E—“?

“Nu?” I asked.

“I am calling from VISA,” he said, “and I just wanted to let you know, in case “E’’’ has not been in contact with you, that we know he is safe because we noticed he withdrew money from Nepal today.”

I was overwhelmed.

Can you imagine an American credit card company calling Joe Blow’s father in East Podunk to tell him not to worry about the Blow family’s son because it knew he withdrew some money from his credit card, so everything must be all right?

I asked the VISA representative, “Who decided to call me?”

He answered that it was a management decision when an inspection of withdrawals revealed that one of their clients withdrew money from Nepal two days after the tragedy, when the names of missing and dead Israeli trekkers still were not known.

I and hundreds of thousands of other Israelis routinely damn the credit companies for being legal “thieves,” renewing credit cards that require monthly payment but without informing the client after a year of free service, or for providing misleading information on conditions for using a credit card, or simply sending a credit card in the mail.

That is what happened last week when my wife received a credit card without asking for it. It was another gimmick to tempt people into making unnecessary purchases.

When Tamar Ariel z”l Got Her Wings

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Tamar Ariel got her wings during the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012.

Tamar Ariel was among the Israelis confirmed dead in storm that hit northern Nepal earlier this week.

Nepal Sources Say 6 Israelis Killed in Himalayas Avalanche

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Sources in Nepal said Friday that six Israelis were killed in Wednesday morning’s avalanche that already is known to have claimed the lives of three Israelis , with a fourth missing and feared dead.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it is not relying on foreign sources but has no information that confirm or deny the report but said that 12 Israelis have been rescued and are being treated in an American hospital in Katmandu for hypothermia.

As reported here Thursday night, Tamar Ariel, the first religious women to become an Israeli Air Force navigator, Nadav Shoham and Agam Luria were killed in the blizzard that also claimed the lives of at least 26 others. The death toll is almost certain to grow.

Rescuers on ground and from the air have rescued more than 250 trekkers from the Himalayas and nearby regions that have suffered the onslaught of heavy snow and rain in an unseasonal cyclone.

Helicopters leading the rescue effort ceased to fly Thursday night because of poor weather conditions but were to resume Friday morning.

Israeli hiker Linor Kajan was quoted by wire services as saying, “I was sure I was going to die on the way to the pass because I lost my group, I lost all the people I was with and I could not see anything. One Nepalese guide who knows the way saw me and asked me to stay with him. And he dragged me, really dragged me to the tea shop. And everybody there was really frightened.”

 

First Religious Female Air Force Navigator among Israelis Killed in Nepal Avalanche

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Three Israelis, including the first religious woman to serve as an Israeli Air Force navigator, were killed Wednesday morning in in a snow storm in the Himalayas in Nepal.

A fourth Israeli remains missing, and at least 28 others were killed, but dozens of others are missing. Twelve Israelis were among approximately 60 hikers who were rescued by helicopters.

The navigator was identified as 24-year-old Tamar Ariel, from Masuot Yitzchak, a religious moshav near Ashkelon. The other two known Israelis to have died in the tragedy are Nadav Shoham, 30, of the national religious community Hoshaya in the Galilee, and Agam Luria, 23, from Kibbutz Yifat.

The Foreign Ministry first knew of the disaster from foreign news reports that began trickling in several hours before the Shemini Atzereth-Simchat Torah holiday.

One Israeli who is traveling in the area told The Jewish Press that the travel agent with whom he is hiking confirmed the victims were their clients. He added,”There have been torrential rains from a cyclone in the area, with as much as several inches a day for three days.”

The avalanche was on a popular trail known to tourist guides and hikers.

Chabad Emissary Spends Rosh HaShanah in a Nepal Prison

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

The Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic movement did deliberately sent some volunteers to spend time in jails this Rosh HaShana — but that was in the United States. Chabad-Lubavitcher emissaries are sent to many places on their missions to bring the light of Torah to Jews in all corners of the globe.

But Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s emissary to Nepal had not planned to spend his Jewish new year in the Kathmandu prison. However, a mistake made by a clerk stamping his visa when Lifshitz last entered the country led to his arrest just before the start of the Rosh HaShanah holiday.

Instead of directing the prayer services and managing the massive holiday meals served to the hundreds of backpackers and tourists who pass through the Chabad Center, the Kathmandu emissary spent the first day and a half of the holiday behind bars.

His wife Chani Lifshitz, meanwhile, instantly reached out to World Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters, who contacted the Israeli and U.S. foreign ministries.

Both in turn contacted the government of Nepal and exerted pressure to ensure the mistake was rectified in time for the emissary to be freed before the Sabbath began.

A team of volunteers, meanwhile, did what they could to fill in and run the prayer services and manage the meals – and suddenly discovered just how much work had been getting done by the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary without anyone ever realizing it!

The Kathmandu Chabad Center is responsible for producing the famed annual largest Passover seder in the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/chabad-emissary-spends-rosh-hashanah-in-a-nepal-prison/2014/09/28/

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