The Israeli who saved a Turkish mountaineer’s life plants Israel’s flag on Mt. Kazbek

Nadav Ben Yehuda, who, on  Mt. Everest saved an injured Turkish climber instead of moving on to become the youngest Israeli to reach the peak, scales Mt. Kazbek in Georgia & plants a flag there that he received from President Shimon Peres.

Yori Yalon


Israeli mountain climber Nadav Ben Yehuda, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in June for saving an injured Turkish climber on Mt. Everest instead of pushing ahead and becoming the youngest Israeli to reach the peak, has scaled the Kazbek mountain in Georgia over the weekend and planted an Israeli flag there that was given to him by President Shimon Peres.

Nadav Ben Yehuda at the top of the Kazbek mountain in Georgia. – Photo: Anna Gudjevidza

After receiving the presidential award two weeks ago, Ben Yehuda decided to conquer the 5,042-meter-high Kazbek mountain located in the Caucasus mountain range and asked Peres for permission to take a flag located in the President’s Residence with him to the top of the mountain. The Israeli mountaineer chose Kazbek as a trial to test his ability to climb with a right hand that was injured during his daring rescue of his Turkish friend and others on Mt. Everest.

With just 300 meters to go before reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, and within sight of the summit, Ben Yehuda decided to turn around to save the Turkish mountaineer, forfeiting his dream to be the youngest Israeli to reach the peak of the world’s tallest mountain. Ben Yehuda, 24, sustained injuries during the rescue and suffered severe frostbite.

At the end of the ordeal, Ben Yehuda told Israel Radio from the hospital that there were several bodies strewn along the path to the mountain’s summit and that, in addition to helping the Turkish climber, he also assisted a British climber and a Georgian national.

The adventurous Israeli climber recalled the fateful moments on the mountain and said “We spent the nights in a tent on an icy slope on the side of the mountain. During the first two nights I suffered a strong pain in my right hand due to the extreme cold. As the days progressed, I tried all kinds of ways to keep that hand warm. It’s not pleasant at all to see your hand turn blue and I was always prepared to turn back as quickly as possible if it became necessary to do so. Without showing it outwardly, I was tense inside throughout the climb.”

Ben-Yehuda said that during the ascent at Kazbeq “When I showed other climbers photos of my hand taken two months ago, they couldn’t believe how well I was dealing with the situation.”

After completing the climb at Kazbek, Ben Yehuda explained why he brought the Israeli flag with him: “The flag that the president gave me represents all the good that Israel offered me when I returned from Everest. Planting it at the peak was my way of thanking the medical team, my family, friends, President Peres and anyone who took an interest in me and supported my endeavor.”

Ben Yehuda’s rescue of others at Mt. Everest and the ceremony at the presidential residence during which he received the medal, were covered extensively in the Turkish press. The Israeli mountaineer said that when he reached the peak at Kazbek, he was surprised by Turkish soldiers serving in a multinational unit on the mountain, who approached him, called him by name, congratulated him and hugged him. They were grateful, he said, for saving a fellow Turkish national.

Peres said “I am proud of Nadav, the strength of his spirit and his love for Israel. I wish him a happy and healthy new year, and a year in which he conquers new heights.”

Next week, Ben Yehuda is scheduled to fly to Spain for an attempt to reach the peak of the Pyrenees mountains, where he also plans to plant an Israeli flag.

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