Sunday 19 October 2014

At the peak

At the end of the film Unbreakable, Simone does a short piece to camera after Mark's first post-accident attempt at adventuring comes to a demoralising slumpy end.  She suggests that her bloke's next leap forward might not be in some frozen waste of the Earth but up against the frozen heart of the mega-rich corporate world. It's a metaphor for Azimov's mysterious Second Foundation, set up "at Star's end", which turns out to be right in the commercial and political hub of The Empire. Like Louis Agassiz, who found a Summer's worth of study in his own back yard, the thrill of adventure and pushing your self to its limit can be achieved by taking taxis to Megacorp as well as sledges to the South Pole.

In May 2012, Nadav Ben Yehuda found himself in a quandary. He's a young chap, now 36 then 34, he's from Israel and he climbs mountains.Whatever its supply of kibbutzim, oranges or prayer-shawls, Israel is a little short on mountains. Or it has mountains but they are a little short. The highest point is Mt Meron near the border with Lebanon at a tad over 1200m. Heck, the country is about as craggy as Ireland (Carrauntohill is 1040m) which is not craggy at all. In 2012, Ben Yehud got the chance of a climber's lifetime at Mt Everest.  It was not the best season for climbing to the top of the world because the weather closed out the number of possible summit days from an average of 11 down to four.  There were a couple of hundred people on the mountain during those few days and many of them got to the top and back down safely despite a log-jam of other climbers to compete with.  When Ben Yehuda approached the summit, it was late, indeed it was already dark; he was dog-tired; the wind was shrieking horizontal ice-needles but his goal was within reach only 300 m further on. That's about the distance from our front gate to the county road. Then by the light of his head-torch the climber saw another man lying down in a crack in the ice: gloveless, unconscious, without oxygen and certain to die if left in that exposed position. Like Mark Pollock giving up his dreams of wheel-chair yomps across Siberia, the young Israeli instantly dumped his chance to climb Everest. With dogged perseverance, indomitable courage and ludicrous amounts of good fortune, he spent the next 8 hours carrying and dragging the injured man down to the nearest camp and safety, expecting most of the time that they would both die up there.
Somewhere among the clouds above . . .
Shimon Peres the Israeli President later gave Ben Yehuda an award saying "You searched for a geographical peak and found a humanitarian peak".  I'm sure it sounds more poetic in Hebrew but the point stands: pushing the frontiers need not be in the outback.

There is a nice touch in the fact that the man rescued was a Turk called Aydin Imrak. Turkey and Israel have been less at logger-heads than other countries and factions in the Middle East but they have had their differences, both diplomatic and political, not least in 2010 when Israeli commandos assaulted the Turkish registered ship MV Mavi Marmara on its way to Gaza with humanitarian aid and killed 9 Turkish citizens.  The friendship between Ben Yehuda and Imrak, like that between Indian and Pakistani students at The Institute, transcends politics and religion to demonstrate a common humanity. büyük bir kucaklama, חיבוק גדול, 

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