Israelis go out of their way to save stranded Nepal trekkers


One healthcare worker says the locals are “amazed” at solidarity among the Israelis.
• Israel’s Harel Insurance charters helicopter to airlift Israelis
• IDF, Magen David Adom, & other organizations dispatch specialists in search & rescue of Israelis

By Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, Nitzi Yakov, Meital Yasur Beit-Or, Ilan Gattegno


The Nepalese government’s search and rescue operation in the Himalayas has entered its fifth day, less than a week after hundreds of trekkers were caught off guard by a blizzard and an avalanche in the popular Annapurna Range.

Israelis embraced each other in Katmandu after being rescued from the Annapurna Range – Photo: AFP

Nepalese authorities have confirmed the death of 43 people, including 3 Israelis. Twenty bodies have yet to have been recovered due to the heavy snow. Rescuers said they would focus on helping the 22 people who are still stranded in Thorung La Pass, a mountain pass in the region. Michal Gili Charkesky, a 36-year-old Israeli woman from Givatayim, is still missing.

Harel Insurance chartered a helicopter to reach the Israeli trekkers, as other means of transportation were deemed unsafe. Nadav Khalifa, who has coordinated Harel’s efforts in the region, told Israel Hayom Saturday that his team “tried to rescue all the Israelis who were stranded at high elevations; we managed to bring them down with the helicopter, we rescued 40 on Friday and another 20 a day earlier,” he said.

According to Khalifa, some of the trekkers were not aware of the scope of the tragedy until they were rescued, at which point they learnt about their friends’ deaths and injuries. “Some of the people were found in the bases high up on the mountains, where they experienced severe weather and extreme temperatures, not knowing what might unfold,” Khalifa said. “They didn’t know when, and if, they would be rescued.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry has set up a command and control center to facilitate the evacuation of the injured to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, with Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Yaron Mayer and the consul general constantly monitoring the situation.


Professor Avraham Rivkind, the head of the Shock Trauma Unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem treated the Israelis who arrived the local hospital, along with his colleague, Dr. Julius Golander, a cardiologist.

“The majority of the patients suffer from frostbite and other related injuries; one was treated for fractures,” Rivkind said. “We will continue working with the plastic and orthopedic surgeons, the physicians in the general surgery department, and the radiologists. We expect a long recovery period, and only then will we be ready to assess the state of the internal organs,” he said.

On Friday, the IDF dispatched a relief team whose members included a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Magen David Adom in Israel, a large emergency response apparatus in Israel, also sent a team of first responders. “We are doing more than just triage; a lot of what we are doing involves talking with the Israelis, most of whom who have just completed their military service,” Asi Duvlinsky, a paramedic at MDA, told Israel Hayom. “There is a harrowing tale behind every patient, but many have been traumatized by the storm and had to rely on their friends to stay alive. Even Hollywood productions can’t match their amazing survival stories.”

Director of the MDA Medical Division Rafi Strugo praised the local healthcare workers for their “superb” treatment. “They are doing all they can, they are consulting with experts from overseas; they are using innovative practices, and when necessary, administering experimental drugs. But because the hospital is so small we are trying to have the patients airlifted to Israel as soon as possible, with the help of the embassy, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the insurance firms,” he said. “The local medical teams are amazed by the dedicated care we have provided to the Israeli patients; they have never seen such a strong bond of mutual care between fellow citizens.”

Seven Israeli patients were scheduled to arrive overnight Sunday in Israel on a plane chartered by Harel. They will be treated at Ramat Gan’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, another 40 Israelis who are traveling in the area of Annapurna have yet to contact their families, but are not believed to be in danger.


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