As rescue teams helicoptered into the remote Nepalese area of Langtang to spirit out Israeli tourists stranded there Tuesday, two backpackers turned down the offer, apparently deciding to stay and help with recovery efforts instead.
Two families and eight Israelis were rescued from the quake-ravaged mountain region and taken to an area where roads were passable, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, but Aviv Rosen and Yonatan Molcho asked to be left behind.
The two were in Nepal for the traditional “gap year” trip many Israelis take after finishing military service and before beginning academic studies. When the time came and Israelis lined up for their place on the rescue helicopters, Rosen and Molcho refused.
Yaffa Rosen, mother of Aviv, told the Ynet news outlet they had stayed behind to help the area recover from the devastating Saturday earthquake, which killed at least 5,000 people and destroyed whole villages in Nepal.
“It is certainly not easy, but I understand he has values and thinks about others beside himself,” she said. “I am very proud of my son; I think the entire country should be proud of such a boy who doesn’t just up and leave but stays behind to help dozens of people. He stayed behind [and didn’t fly back home] because of his love for mankind, not in order receive anything.”
The group in Langtang were contacted earlier by rescue teams paid for by Israeli insurance companies after being out of contact since the earthquake.
On Monday night, an Israeli trekker told his father that local Nepalese had turned angry at the foreign backpackers, and requested immediate help.
Since the quake, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has been working to contact the thousands of Israeli backpackers across the country and take them to safety. By Tuesday afternoon officials said they had located all but nine of the Israelis known to be in the Himalayan country.
Although there were not thought to be any Israeli fatalities in the quake some of the travelers were in areas where communications were cut off after the tremor.
An El Al plane carrying 216 Israelis from Nepal landed at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday afternoon, as rescue workers pressed on with efforts to reach Israeli tourists stranded in remote areas, devastated by a massive earthquake that has killed at least 5,000 people.
On Monday evening, an IDF plane carrying Israelis doctors, search and rescue teams and other aid personnel landed in Kathmandu, and the medical team immediately prepared to set up a field hospital in the quake-struck capital. An additional four planes were expected to arrive on Tuesday.
Aboard the flights were some 200 Israeli doctors and emergency specialists.
More than 10,000 people are now known to have been injured in Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, Nepal’s home ministry national disaster management division chief Rameshwor Dangal told AFP.