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Until the Ends of the Earth

Aharon Granot, Kathmandu

As an entire country turned to rubble, Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz of Chabad House Nepal found themselves at the epicenter of the search-and-rescue mission they’d been directing since the massive earthquake leveled the cities and villages at the foot of Mount Everest. On scene in Nepal, watching, waiting, and occasionally joining the Israeli rescue teams that set out to locate trapped Jews, Mishpacha’s Aharon Granot experienced his own aftershocks.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

You might be a newshound who’s read every report coming out of Nepal, but nothing can compare to actually touching down in the capital city of Kathmandu and getting hit full-force by disaster. Even in normal times, it looks like Hashem concentrated the lion’s share of poverty, wretchedness, and misfortune on this country, which ironically boasts the most majestic natural tourist attraction in the world. But last week’s earthquake gave new dimensions to its plight. On my visit to a Nepal ripped asunder, I couldn’t find Mount Everest. I couldn’t even find a main street. What I did find were mounds of dirt and filth, although that didn’t stop the earsplitting honks from what looked like rusty tin cans on wheels. A few minutes earlier, heavy rain had poured down, and now I step gingerly through the mud puddles, trying to avoid the brown showers from passing vehicles that soak the masses of pedestrians. Squalor has always existed here, but it’s been compounded by last week’s earthquake, which claimed over 7,000 lives (Nepalese authorities say they expect the death toll to climb to tens of thousands as rescue teams begin to reach remote villages) and left up to 2 million homeless. The rickety hovels couldn’t withstand the natural disaster and many of the structures collapsed like houses of cards on their occupants. All along the destroyed roads, the displaced survivors have built tent camps for shelter. But I also find many refugees lying on the sidewalks or in the gutter. The expression in their eyes says it all: it’s miserable sleeping on the sidewalk, but it’s better than being packed into a tent with hundreds of others in subhuman conditions. During my visit there’s no electricity or running water, most stores are closed, and it’s hard to obtain food. There is no online communication, nor working telephone lines. Everything seems to be contaminated, and the masks the people are wearing just reinforce the aura of death all around. The morgues are overfull, and funeral pyres abound as volunteers burn the rising numbers of unclaimed bodies. If ten measures of misery were bestowed upon the world, nine of them must have been claimed by the dark alleys of Kathmandu.

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