It has become a rite of passage for IDF soldiers: relieved of their army service, thousands trek the Himalayan mountain ranges and find relief from the stresses of their military service.
The breathtaking views from mountain precipices and jagged cliffs beckon, but with real danger, and invariably, Chabad is called in on rescue missions when hikers go missing. With limited or no cellphone reception in these remote areas, just trying to locate them them in the mountainous region consumes precious time when immediate life support is needed.
The problem, all too familiar to Rabbi Chezki and Chani Lifshitz, leaders of the popular Chabad House in Kathmandu, has compelled them to come up with a solution: they will now be providing satellite phones for trekkers to take with them when they go backpacking.
The project was dedicated by the family of Nadav Shoham, one of four Israelis who were killed during last year’s unusual weather pattern and blizzards storm.
“The phones let us know exactly where trekkers are when a tragedy hits,” says Chani Lifshitz. This, she says, will allow them to be located and save precious time “guessing where they may be in this huge region.”
The phones transmit the locations of the trekkers to the computer back in Kathmandu, where Lifshitz and volunteers could follow their movements to see if they are hewing to designated paths or if they’ve gotten lost. Satellite access makes it possible to reach out to anyone they feel is in trouble.
Lifshitz points to the Israelis who were trapped in the October blizzard while hiking in the Himalayas. One trekker wrote a note about their dire situation and gave it to a local Nepali who knew the terrain and got it to an Israeli who had access to a phone. The note alerted the Israeli embassy, who turned to Chabad for assistance in assisting in the rescue.
“We want the families of those who were so tragically killed last year to know that we will never forget their loved ones. This project will prevent more casualties,” Lifshitz says. “We also want to assure parents of trekkers that if they are ever worried about their children, we will now have a better way of accessing them.”