Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Nepal: Retrieving the remains of Jewish victims for burial

With the body of 22-year-old hiker Or Asraf in the airport en route to Israel, Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, co-director of Chabad of Nepal, says the grisly work of searching for Jewish remains continues in the wake of the April 25 earthquake that crippled the South Asian nation. “Jewish families whose loved ones are missing have turned to us for help locating the bodies of their children, sisters, brothers,” explains Lifshitz, “and we are doing all we can to locate those bodies as soon as possible and get them to a Jewish burial. We call it chesed shel emet, the true altruistic kindness, because the recipients can never repay us for it.” Jewish law places a premium on bodies being buried as soon as possible after the moment of passing. In Nepal, there is an added urgency, as Hindus routinely cremate their dead, which is forbidden by halachah (Jewish law). In these chaotic times, there is a real chance of local officials simply burning remains before anyone can stop them. RELATED Related News Stories For Israeli Soldiers and Rescue Teams in Nepal, a Semblance of Home Comforting the Friends and Family of Deceased Israeli Hiker Chabad Centers Chabad House of Kathmandu Knowledge Base Kathmandu, Nepal(15) More from Chabad.org Hope in Katmandu Israeli President Rivlin Hosting Lifshitz Kids from Nepal
The work is further complicated because most countries do not have data on the religious affiliation of their citizens—let alone tourists—so Jews in need of burial are hard to locate among thousands of unidentified remains are scattered throughout the country.

Lifshitz has been flying via helicopter all over the country in search of both the living, who may still be stranded in far-flung places, and the dead, so their remains will be handled properly.

So far, he and his fellow rescuer, British-born Yehuda Rose, have brought hundreds of survivors back to safety at the Chabad House in Kathmandu, including a Nepali man who lost his entire family and all his possessions in the quake.

British-born Yehuda Rose, left, flew to Nepal after the earthquake and has worked with Rabbi Lifshitz to bring hundreds of survivors back to safety at the Chabad House in Kathmandu, including this Nepali man, who lost his entire family and all his possessions in the quake.

The rabbi sadly has some experience in locating and transporting tourists who have lost their lives in the often treacherous mountain treks. Notably, in the fall of 2013, he brought the body of Marina Muchnik—whose bus had plunged into a ravine—back to her family in Melbourne, Australia.

Earlier that same summer, George Abboudi, a 22-year-old Jewish man from Leeds, England, went missing. The Lifshitzes led a massive search effort only to discover that he had fallen into a river and died, and had been cremated by local villagers.

While the rabbi spends his days and nights choppering around the country, his wife, Chani, and a staff of volunteers continue to run extensive relief efforts, bringing meals to a refugee camp of some 3,000 Nepalis on a daily basis. Simultaneously, they serve as a home base for the Israeli rescue and medical teams that have come to the aid of the beleaguered nation.

Said the rabbi: “I wish what we offer could heal the wounded and the suffering … if not their bodies, then at least their souls.”

Tuesday 5 May 2015



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