A mountain climber who won international plaudits for giving up his world-record Everest summit to save a frostbitten Turk has clambered back into the hearts and minds of Israelis, planting the Israeli flag on a peak in the Caucasus.
Nadav Ben Yehuda became a local and international hero in May when he gave up his quest to become the youngest person to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, instead turning back just 300 meters from the top to save a Turkish climber who had collapsed.
Still suffering from an injury to his right hand that he had sustained during the ordeal, Ben Yehuda on Thursday summited Mount Kazbeck, over 5,033 meters (16,512 feet) above Georgia, planting at the top an Israeli flag given to him by President Shimon Peres.
Kazbeck is the highest mountain in eastern Georgia and the seventh highest in the Caucasus.
Ben Yehuda’s act of heroics — he carried the stricken Turkish climber for hours until they reached a lower camp — made him something of a minor celebrity in Turkey and Israel.
Diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have been under strain for more than two years, after Israeli commandos, who came under attack when trying to commandeer a Turkish vessel that was seeking to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, opened fire and killed nine Turkish citizens.
While at the Mount Kazbeck summit, Ben Yehuda said, he met a group of Turkish soldiers — there as part of an international force — who called him by name and hugged him, according to Ynet.
“The flag that the president gave me on the occasion of the climb symbolizes, in my view, all the good that I received in Israel after returning from Everest,” he told the news outlet.
He reportedly plans to climb in Spain next week and plant the flag on a mountain there.