Number of Israelis Unaccounted for in Nepal Remains Unclear

There seems to be a discrepancy between Foreign Ministry data and the facts on the ground.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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The IDF disaster team in Nepal, April 28, 2015.
The IDF disaster team in Nepal, April 28, 2015.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Confusion remained on Tuesday as to the number of Israelis unaccounted for in Nepal. While the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday noon published a list of names of Israelis still considered missing, there seems to be a discrepancy between the ministry's data and the facts on the ground.

"The Foreign Ministry defines as missing those who failed to make contact after the earthquake on Saturday," said Nitay Raish, an Israeli volunteer in Nepal. "There are some who continued trekking after the first earthquake, but did not call after the second (the aftershock), on Sunday morning."

David Azriel, an Israeli coordinating search efforts by volunteers in Pokhara, says there are 19 unaccounted Israelis on his list. Bad weather is expected on Wednesday and the Chinese army will be in charge of rescue operations on Mount Everest. Azriel and his group of volunteers have the coordinates of two Israelis near the Tibet-Nepal border, he says, but adds that they need the Foreign Ministry's help to get the message to the Chinese army.

Among the Israelis have still not made contact are Amit Tzangot from Tel Mond, Sagi Rechbuch from Carmiel, Alian Gaon-Lerner, Or Assraf from Lehavim and Yossi Haled who was hiking by himself in the area of the Mount Everest base camp at the time of the quake.

Assraf, 22, was on a post-army trek with friends from the elite IDF Egoz unit. Some of his friends returned home or left for India before the earthquake, while Assraf was scheduled to go on a trek in Langtang starting Saturday morning. His parents were at Ben-Gurion International Airport yesterday, when the first plane bringing Israelis home from Kathmandu arrived, hoping to find a young woman who they heard had seen their son. They carried a large sign saying: “Who has seen Assraf in the Lantang region,” since they did not know her name and hoped that she would find them. It turned out that she had seen Assraf, but before the earthquake hit. Orit Assraf, Or’s mother, said the last contact they had with their son was a WhatsApp message on Friday evening. “We are a bit worried since he has a satellite phone and it is off,” she said.

Tzangot, 24, Gaon-Lerner, 22, and Rechbuch, 23, were together on a Frozen Lakes trek in the Langtang reserve and have not made contact since the earthquake. Their friend Matan Caspi, who traveled with them in the Far East and has already returned to Israel, said that the three did not have a satellite phone with them. “Their names have not come up anywhere and we haven’t received any sign from them,” he said.

Since the earthquake, Caspi and other friends have been busy with the painstaking work of trying to find any scrap of information on them, he said. Caspi is trying to distribute a video clip they sent the day before they started the trek through WhatsApp to find anyone who might be able to identify the location and help understand where the three might have been on their trek. “I’m already planning their homecoming party,” he said yesterday.

Yossi Haled, 54, was in the area of Everest when the earthquake struck and his family has not succeeded in making contact with him since. His sister, Osnat Rimon, said he was hiking alone. “He is not the typical Israeli traveler,” she said. “This is not his first time in Nepal; he has already done treks in the region.” His family is considering organizing a rescue team and would be grateful for help from anyone in the area, she said.

“We don’t know anything. In the last few minutes we received a message through Facebook about someone who thinks he saw him, but that report is not verified and we need to check it,” said Rimon. Haled is married and has children. He lives part of the time in Israel and part in New Zealand, where he is working on his doctoral degree.

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