Nepal: latest on Israelis and their babies

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Pictured are Israeli travellers with their new-born babies from surrogate mothers in Nepal disembarking from an ElAl rescue plane after it landed at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday. Also on the ElAl flight were members of Israeli NGO Tevel B’Tzedek, which organises volunteer trips to Nepal. They set up a youth group, provide leadership workshops to women and take Israeli agritech to Nepalese farms & computers to schools. This story has links to all of JR’s stories and on how to help through Jewish Organisations
by BEN SALES | Apr 29, 2015

When the ground began to shake, Inbar Irron was among a dozen Israelis in Nepal who ran outside the building where they had been sitting – and straight into a cloud of dust.

Nepal15 Israelis

RIGHT: Israeli travelers with their newborn babies from surrogate mothers in Nepal disembarking from an ElAl rescue plane after it landed at Ben Gurion AirportTuesday. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

When their vision cleared, they saw a devastating scene: Much of the village of Manegau, where they had come to volunteer for four months, had crumbled to the ground. Miraculously, none of the villagers was hurt. But many of their homes had been reduced to rubble.

Irron’s group - sent by the Israeli NGO Tevel B’Tzedek, which organises volunteer trips to Nepal - was there to set up a youth group, provide leadership workshops to women in the village, bring Israeli agritech to its farms and computers to its schools.

Now that mission is on long-term hold. The volunteers and villagers have pitched plastic tents to weather the rainy nights, and hope their food stockpile will last until the road to Kathmandu reopens. The immediate task, Irron says, is to rebuild at least a few buildings and reassure the villagers.

"Right now we're trying to maintain calm and high motivation," he told JTA via a satellite phone.

Approximately 2 000 Israelis were in Nepal when a 7,8-magnitude earthquake struck last Saturday, killing more than 4 600 people -  and growing - and destroying buildings and roads across the country. By Tuesday, only a handful of Israelis remained unaccounted for. But over the weekend, across Nepal, hundreds scrambled for shelter, helped each other, weathered strong aftershocks and waited for evacuation as they scrambled to contact worried parents.


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On Tuesday, a flight from Nepal carrying some 220 Israelis landed in Tel Aviv. As Nepal has become a popular destination for Israelis seeking gestational carriers, all of the 26 Israeli babies born there to surrogate mothers were brought back to Israel along with their parents.

Israeli search-and-rescue teams retrieved Israelis from their refuge places and brought them to Kathmandu, where hundreds had taken shelter at the Israeli Embassy and Chabad House.

“Many of the people who were here on vacation are more traumatised and prefer to leave as fast as possible,” Nevo Shinaar, another Tevel B’Tzedek worker whose group took refuge in the embassy, wrote to JTA on the messaging application WhatsApp. “We’re talking, we’re embracing, we’re helping with all the bureaucracy."

Nepal is a popular destination for young Israelis, many of whom vacation there for weeks or months following mandatory service in the Israel Defence Forces.

Several Israeli missions landed in Nepal early in the week to provide medical care, assist search efforts and distribute humanitarian aid. An IDF delegation arrived on Monday night to set up a field hospital, while staff from Magen David Adom, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, fanned out across Kathmandu’s hospitals to care for Israelis and treat the quake’s 11 000 injured. Dr Rafi Strugo, who is heading the MDA team, called Kathmandu “an atmosphere of chaos”.

“In these missions, you need to understand, and it’s hard to understand, that you won’t be able to do everything and help everyone,” Strugo, who also treated injured in Nepal after the 2013 avalanche in Annapurna, told JTA via satellite phone on Monday night.

“The dimensions of the tragedy, the dimensions of the destruction, are so big that you can’t contain it all."

As rescue efforts intensified on Monday and Tuesday, some Israelis remained stranded far from Kathmandu. As of Tuesday evening, nine Israelis were still unaccounted for.

Raviv Torati, who was travelling in south Asia after his discharge from the IDF, was in a car on the way to a music festival when the quake hit, according to his mother, Orna. The car survived the tremors and reached the festival, which was cancelled, but Raviv was stuck there with a group of fellow travellers. Four days later they were sleeping in tents and living on food prepared for the festival while they waited for rescue.

“I want him to come home already,” Orna told JTA on Monday. “I worry so much that if he’ll go to India, there could be more earthquakes or weak roads and bridges. I’m worried he’ll be on the road and – G-d forbid, I don’t want to say. We’re helpless here.”

A group of 10 Israelis hiking in Langtang National Park, 65 kilometres from Kathmandu, found each other after the quake and worked together to survive. According to Elfie Sharabi, one of the hiker's mothers, the group built a small shelter out of bamboo to use during the aftershocks and cleared out a large open space in case a helicopter needed to land to rescue them.

Her daughter, Shani, has a satellite phone, so parents across Israel and the world have been calling Sharabi in hopes of locating their children who went missing in Langtang. Together, Elfie and Shani Sharabi helped some 40 adult children in Langtang contact their parents.

But as her phone number spread across social media, Elfie Sharabi was deluged with messages from people with relatives across Nepal. On Monday afternoon, when she spoke to JTA, Sharabi was attempting to answer 175 WhatsApp messages and 250 e-mails.

"What's good about it is because I have to communicate with so many other people, I don't have time," Sharabi told JTA. "I am usually a major worrier. I don't have time to allow myself to start thinking. I spend so much time trying to calm other people and be positive, I guess it's rubbing off on me, too."

While many Israeli tourists who had travelled to Nepal in search of a relaxing vacation remained tense days after the earthquake, Shinaar said Nepalis had remained calm and, even amid the death and destruction, are focusing on supporting each other. It's an outlook that Shinaar and his fellow volunteers, who are in Nepal for a year, hope to adopt as they begin the work of rebuilding the country.

"It's very shocking, but because we work here we approach it differently from most of the Israeli tourists," Shinaar wrote to JTA. "These are our communities and our people who are suffering here. There's a lot more work to do." (JTA)

Related reads on SAJR Online…

How you can help the relief effort…




  1. 9 Choni 29 Apr
    Pity they cannot breast feed their babies.
  2. 8 Denis Solomons 29 Apr
    The whole situation is sad and full of chaos and destruction but it is difficult to understand why Israelis are seeking Nepalese as surrogate mothers ! ?
    Presumably they are not asking for a lot of money ,
    Why else ! ?
    But as things stand it is probably not the best environment to bring up a newborn baby !
  3. 7 Choni 05 May
    I read of a new description of these "parents".
    "Israeli sodomites"
  4. 6 Jonathan 14 May
    Choni get over your homophobic feelings. Hey Choni has feelings, get over your feelings, as it's not normal for men to having feelings.
  5. 5 Joshua 14 May
    Chony you are a sick old man and think only you have the right to live in SA as a Jew. Ja, ja - we all kmow your sad story but get off other peoples backs. Now you're going all homophobe about Israelis. Give us a break!!!!!!
  6. 4 Miriam 15 May
    To Jonthan and Joshua;
    My name is Miriam Davidowitz, and I have been married to Choni  for almost 60 years. He is the most compassionate person who visits and comforts dozens of Selwyn Segal residents each week. There is not one iota of hatred in him, and there is not one person in our entire community of Sandrinham Gardens , and Golden Acres residents who do not admire his good nature and wit. He is certainly not a grumpy self hating person, and he deserves an apology from you Joshua (whoever you are) Maybe you could give us a call before you make any more insulting accusations.

    P.S. I too do not approve of Sodomites. Does that me  a self hating lady?

  7. 3 Yoni 17 May
    Miriam, how awful it must be to live with such a bitter man for so many years. And to be living in this torrid exile when you should be in the Holy Land. You are both hypocrites of the highest order, preaching Aliyah when you live in the comfort of South African funded communal safety and relative luxury. We all have personal stories and reasons for doing what we do, yours is no better or no worse than anybody else's. 
  8. 2 Joshua 18 May
    Hear hear Yoni. "We all have personal stories and reasons for doing what we do, yours is no better or no worse than anybody else's." How succinctly put!
  9. 1 Choni 18 May
    Yoni and Joshua, There are thousands of Israelis living in S.Africa for whatever reason.
    Does that make them ineligible to promote Aliyah for local young Jews?
    I wish you two would not remain anonymous so that we could discuss our personal lives 'face to face' instead of flinging slander on my wife and I.

    Choni Davidowitz


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