Preventable Catastrophe

August 13, 2023, Israel


Hiking in Israel, a national pastime and a yearly tragedy. 

Friday night Shabbat dinner, I am with one of my neighbors, neither of the couple have ever been to the USA, and they do not plan on visiting. Why? Well, the answer should be obvious, they do not want to be eaten alive by Grizzley bears. You see they have seen videos and news reports about Americans going hiking only to attacked by wild bears and eaten. I tried to explain that this is rather rare and that if the necessary precautions are taken, hiking can be safe. Saturday, Shabbat lunch, I am with another neighbor. On the table I find an open newspaper. The article looks interesting, I start to read. It is a famale writer, a volunteer with a search and rescue operation, she begins her column by writing...this is an article I wanted to avoid. She writes with compassion and a broken heart. It is similar to my Krav Maga blogs, she is trying her best not to be judgmental, not to preach, but yet she feels the urgent need to issue a warning. We are talking about preventable catastrophes. 

Every summer in Israel there is some sort of hiking tragedy. People love hiking. It is part of the national culture emanating from the Biblical directive when God spoke to Abraham the Hebrew these words "Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13) To this day his descendants are doing just that, but it can be dangerous. 

As the author of the column points out, most of the tragedies were unnecessary. She writes, we are not just talking about an accidental slip and falling down a cliff, we are talking about people getting lost, dehydrating because they did not bring enough water, suffering sun stroke because they did not wear a hat, and people who generally had no clue what kind of shoes or clothing to wear. 

She describes the feeling she got when she was called in for an emergency search and rescue operation. She grabbed her kit; she went to the freezer and grabbed her two bottles of frozen water which she always brings when she goes out to the desert to search for hikers. Please note: Her bag is ready, her cell phone is fully charged, her gear is ready, and she always has two bottles ready, with frozen water. She is prepared. This is not a time to start asking, darn, where or where did I put my sun hat? Be prepared. and see where this is going. 

She arrived on the scene, she gathers the information; large family outing, there are several children, a father, and a grandfather. Two of the children manage to reach a nearby town and alert authorities. Soon the search and rescue team arrive. The children explain that they all became weak and tired. They split up to find help. Eventually the two children had to abandon the grandfather who simply could not continue but they know exactly where he is. The team finds him, he is weak, dehydrated but alive. He will be fine. The father on the other hand, was found lifeless.

She writes, "I stared at those children. They were given pizza by the local community. I looked at their sweet innocent faces and I wanted to wait a minute, another minute. Only I knew that their world was to change, irrevocably. Give them another minute to believe that they still had a father, another minute of innocence before their world comes crumbling down."

And I could relate. 

She goes on how it was all avoidable. The man was a rabbi, not trained properly in hiking, not equipped properly, he was not prepared. It was all avoidable. He leaves behind 11 fatherless children and a widow. And now for the Krav Maga part. There is no need to elaborate. Figure it out yourself. And the heart cries out to heaven. 

This is why I write. I am accused of preaching, of trying to make money off of other people's tragedies, to drum up business. This woman writes her blog carefully in order not to "victim shame", not to cast blame upon a dead man, but to warn. She ends with a plea, let every rabbi speak about this from his pulpit, let every politician raise this issue. I do the same. 

This is why I teach. And like a Biblical prophet of old, I wonder, why have I spoken, and no one listened? Why have I come but there is no one here to train?


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

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