Injured just kept on coming, says Israeli aid worker in Nepal


A veteran paramedic with Second Intifada experience, Ilan Klein has been on the scene at dozens of terror attacks. But none of them prepared him for the flow of wounded he encountered in Nepal.

“In Israel, if there is, God forbid, an attack, injured people eventually stop coming — but in Nepal they didn’t,” he said on Wednesday, after returning to Israel from a two-day mission.

Mr Klein was part of the first foreign medical delegation to land in Nepal: an eight-person team from Israel’s ambulance service Magen David Adom. He is Orthodox, but nevertheless started preparations for his trip on Shabbat, after receiving a beeper message telling him to do so. MDA, a non-profit organisation, had hired a plane as soon as it heard of the disaster.

The MDA team treated wounded at a military-run hospital in Kathmandu, and received heroes’ welcomes from locals. Paramedic Ravit Amitai said: “They thanked us, they were delighted to see us.”

The MDA team was just a small taster of the help that was to come from Israel. By Wednesday morning, the Israeli military had set up its largest ever field hospital in Kathmandu.

“It’s amazing to stand here because it’s not just a single tent, but rather, in less than 24 hours, we have assembled a whole hospital with emergency triage, emergency paediatrics, labour and delivery, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics, and a pharmacy,” said IDF spokeswoman Libby Weiss.

There are almost 300 Israelis on the ground in Nepal helping the country to get through the disaster, most of them sent by the military and the Foreign Ministry. Around half of them are working in the field hospital, and the rest are engaged in other tasks, including search and rescue.

Before they left Israel, President Reuven Rivlin told them: “This delegation of ‘angel envoys’ represents the universal values which are in the spirit of our people and our country.” They include some of Israel’s top doctors, including Jonathan Halevy, director-general of the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, and Itai Shavit, director of paediatric emergency at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital.

As Israeli medics and rescuers embarked on their task, in America, a Jewish family mourned. Dan Fredinburg, a 33-year-old executive at Google, was killed at a Mount Everest base camp by an avalanche that the earthquake had triggered. His sister Megan described him as a “hilarious, strong-willed man”.

Meanwhile, Israelis who survived the earthquake started to arrive home. Met by tearful families, some recounted harrowing stories.

A plane with 216 survivors landed at Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, but two small aircraft holding some tiny Israelis had touched down the previous day. Several gay Israelis had been in Nepal at the time of the quake, collecting babies born to Nepalese surrogate mothers.

“My partner tried to take Maya from the crib but he couldn’t because the earth was moving,” recalled Amir Michaeli-Molian. Maya was just 10 days old at the time of the quake, and Mr Michaeli-Molian faced the dilemma of either evacuating her from his hotel — which had cracked walls — or taking her out into the night air, which was dangerously cold for a newborn. He stayed in the hotel and, with his partner Alon Michaeli-Molian and their two-year-old daughter Shira, dealt with the “constant anxiety, as you never know what will happen next”.

They were dreading another night in the hotel, but did not need to endure one. The next evening, four-by-fours arrived, “like in an American movie”, to take them and three other gay couples to the airport. They boarded the Tel Aviv-bound plane that MDA had hired.

When the JC went to press, several dozen Israelis were still stranded in remote parts of Nepal, and one remained out of contact: 22-year-old IDF veteran Or Asraf. Mr Asraf’s parents remained hopeful on Wednesday, as a rescued Israeli traveller told them she had made contact with him an hour after the quake, Channel 2 reported.

Altogether, 600 Israelis were in Nepal at the time of the quake, according to the Foreign Ministry. Most were youngsters on their travels after completing army service. Some experienced dramatic rescues, including a group of four who were trapped on the slopes of Mount Everest for almost two days, and were found by a team commissioned by an Israeli insurance company. As Israelis found their way to the relative safety of central Kathmandu, they tended to converge on Chabad House.

There, they were met by parents-of-six Chezki and Chani Lifshitz, who were determined to keep everyone nourished despite dwindling supplies, and to raise spirits despite the tragedy around them. “We collect rain water, clean it and drink it,” said Rabbi Lifshitz.

He dispatched his children back to his native Israel, but swore to stay to help everyone who arrives at his door. He has been sleeping for just two hours per night.

As well as the country’s official delegation and the Chabad team, the Israeli presence on the ground in Nepal includes several non-profit organisations that have headed there on their own initiative — and their own budgets.

On Wednesday, a second team from the IsraAID organisation arrived in Nepal. As that 15-strong group was in transit, the IsraAID team that was already in place met the head of the special forces of the Nepalese army, who expressed his appreciation for their expertise, and requested support in recovering dead bodies and in trying to find more survivors.

Other Israeli non-profits include ZAKA, United Hatzalah and FIRST, which joined forces as the Israeli Joint Disaster Response Team. Within hours of arriving, this team rescued 10 Israelis from an outlying monastery, and it plans over the coming days to focus heavily on helping locals in rural villages.

World Jewish Relief has been appealing for money to provide emergency assistance including food, tents and medical kits.

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