Eleven Israeli backpackers were stranded in a snowstorm in northwestern India during the weekend, and rescued in a complex mission launched by the country's air force. But two other Israeli backpackers were left behind – refusing to be rescued as it would constitute desecration of Shabbat.
The remote village of Kaza, located in the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh, became shelter for around 150 tourists, 13 of them Israelis, who were trapped there during the raging storm.
Upon discovering that all access roads to the village had been closed off, including the one leading to Manali, the nearest city, the Israeli tourists contacted the embassy.
The backpackers asked Consul Irit Shneor in New Delhi to help them, telling her that earlier Belgium had sent a rescue helicopter to extricate the Belgian citizens trapped in the village. After conversing with Jerusalem the Israeli Embassy decided it, too, would send help.
IDF attache in New Delhi Colonel Yossi Turgeman contacted the Indian air force, which sent out a helicopter funded by the backpackers' insurance.
But the rescue mission left Saturday morning, which prompted two religious girls who were among those trapped to announce that they would refuse to board the helicopters, as this constituted desecration of the Sabbath. Their friends pleaded with them, citing the life-saving extenuation of the law, but they were adamant.
The 11 backpackers arrived safely at Buntar Airport in Kullu, India and called the consul to thank her. "When they all called from Kullu and yelled thanks into the phone they sounded euphoric," Shneor said happily.
The two religious girls remained trapped in the village along with 100 other European tourists. The consulate in New Delhi is currently in touch with them and attempting to assist them with the help of other foreign embassies.