An Israeli hiker who on Friday fell 40 meters while trekking up the Bashisht Mountains near the town of Old Manali, India, was rescued by an unlikely hero: the local Chabad rabbi.
Hours before Menachem Bakush was scheduled to host some 200 Jewish and Israeli travelers for Shabbat dinner, he learned that an Israeli traveler had fallen and was likely severely injured. The rabbi – originally from the Binyamin region of Israel and a trained Hatzalah first responder – dropped his preparations, picked up his medical-kit backpack and began hiking up the mountain.
“It took me 50 minutes to reach the fallen man,” Bakush told The Jerusalem Post. “I drove to the closest location to where he was, then had a 2 km. climb almost directly up. The journey involved a steep uphill climb with a medical kit on my back.”
He said that the whole way up, all he could think about was that his fellow Israeli needed help.
“It is a very high mountain and it is very hard to breathe up there,” he said. “It’s dangerous, too. I didn’t stop to rest. I ran as fast as I could.”
When he reached the injured man, Bakush provided initial medical treatment, including spinal cord stabilization, an intravenous line and bandaging of the hiker’s numerous bleeding wounds. He said the young Israeli suffered from a serious head injury, a chest injury and other injuries to his back and limbs.
The rabbi helped organize the rescue efforts to bring him safely out of the mountains and get him transported to the local hospital. He said the situation “ended in a miracle, but it could have ended differently.”
He accompanied the young man to the hospital and then went home to host his own Shabbat guests.
“I am the rabbi here,” Bakush said timidly, “an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe… I am here to bring Judaism to everyone, to make kiddush, lay tefillin, prepare kosher food – whatever Jewish [help] is needed.”
He said that he never planned to use his Hatzalah training as a rabbi in India, but he has used it quite often since taking on the post of Chabad Shliach of Old Manali two months ago.
Meron Karlik, who runs an organization that helps Israelis trekking in India, posted praise on his Facebook page of Bakush’s quick response.
“Bakush was one of the first people to arrive at the side of the hiker,” Karlik wrote. “Bakush stayed with the injured hiker at the hospital until all of the test results came back. It is not easy to be alone at a hospital in India and it is great that someone was able to be there with him. Thank you to Rabbi Bakush for his assistance.”