It’s been a tragic and anxiety-filled few weeks for Israelis in Nepal and their loved ones back home.

First came the sudden blizzard that pounded more than 400 mountain-climbers—nearly 250 of them Israelis—along the Annapurna peaks in the Himalayas. Nearly 40 of them perished (10 percent of those who started out on the trail), including four Israelis in their 20s.

Then on Friday, two Israeli women—Shira Dabush, 30, of Ramat Gan, and Omer Shemesh, 22, of Hod Hasharon—were killed, along with 12 others, when their bus crashed over a mountainside in Nepal, also injuring more than 50 on board.

In both instances, Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz, co-directors of the Chabad House of Katmandu and the Chabad House of Pokhara in Nepal, were at the epicenter of the tragedies.

In the aftermath of the blizzard, they worked around the clock—assisting families in making contact with their loved ones, supplying tourists with food and clothing, helping to coordinate the rescue efforts and visiting those recovering in hospitals.

After the bus crash, the couple helped manage the return of the two women’s bodies to their families in Israel, spearheaded by the Israeli ambassador in Nepal and the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel David Lau
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel David Lau

The Lifshitzes were presented with an award on Oct. 22 by the Israeli government in recognition of their efforts regarding the blizzard. And post-Shabbat on Saturday night, a day after the bus crash, the couple received a phone call from Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, who informed them of another accolade—a certificate from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, to be presented the next time they are in Israel.

Lau said they were “ambassadors of honor” for both the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Each year, after they complete their military service, hordes of young Israelis travel to South Asia, lured by the exotic atmosphere, low cost of living and numerous hiking opportunities. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains, including Mount Everest.

Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi rabbi noted that Chabad serves as “a home for [these] Israelis throughout the year.”

For their part, Rabbi Lifshitz said they were “like other Chabad shluchim [emissaries] all over the world, happy to help everyone at any time.”

“The big sign at the Nepal Chabad Center reads: Serving everyone and for everything”—in all matters, he said. “We take great effort for the center to be open, welcoming and providing assistance to all. It’s our hope that we continue to help only in good and happy times.”

Chani Lifshitz worked around the clock with blizzard victims and their families.
Chani Lifshitz worked around the clock with blizzard victims and their families.
Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz ran an ad hoc command center for the search for missing hikers and connecting Israelis still in the country to their families in Israel.
Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz ran an ad hoc command center for the search for missing hikers and connecting Israelis still in the country to their families in Israel.