Five years after his daughter perished in a Himalayan avalanche, the father of the first female IDF combat jet navigator returned to conquer the same Himalayan summit together with a delegation of disabled climbers from Israel.
The group of disabled IDF veterans, together with civilian climbers from Israel, included Hanan Ariel, the father of the late Tamar Ariel, the combat jet navigator who perished in the Himalayas during a landslide in 2014, set out to conquer Mount Annapurna in Nepal.
The climb up to Annapurna Ridge with wheelchairs was a very complex logistical operation that required special preparation.
The climax of the journey was reaching the exact spot where Tamar died on the frozen slopes. It was at this point five-years-ago that Tamar, after hours of supporting and physically rescuing her traveling companions, finally collapsed and passed away.
It was at this moment that the group came to a deeper appreciation of the risks Tamar had taken to save her friends. “Her father, who had led us disabled people up this treacherous path and mountainous challenge, was an example to us of helping others through the danger and trials. We all stood together and built a memorial in honor of Tamar, who was officially recognized as a fallen IDF soldier according to army regulations because she perished while conducting what amounted to a rescue operation, though she was not on official military assignment,” said one of the climbers.
Tamar’s father, Hanan Ariel, who is not disabled, said, “We carry you physically and you carry us spiritually. Perhaps in these ups and downs we felt just a bit of the burden that you carry every day and every hour. Your efforts here give us strength. What we have experienced with the loss of Tamar has taught us that every person has a limited time in this world. Tamar had 25 full and good years,” Hanan said.
Hanan thanked the members of the delegation who were able to follow Tamar’s final footsteps. The Israel Embassy in Nepal put together a special meeting between the Israeli delegation and the Nepali Disabled Association. At the end of the climb, the embassy organized joint activities in the mountain.
Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Benny Omar said: “We are delighted to welcome cooperation between disabled people from Israel and Nepal proving that we are capable of achieving extraordinary achievements with mutual support and solidarity. It is also a contribution to the promotion of tourism to Nepal, which declared 2020 as the year of ‘Visit Nepal 2020.’”
Just last week Israel’s Ministry of Defense decided to recognize Tamar as a fallen IDF soldier after new evidence revealed that she had perished during a heroic effort to save the lives of others.
Tamar Ariel became a role model for many religious women in Israel who enlist in full military service in the IDF. She was born in 1989 at the religious Moshav Masuot Yitzhak. In 2009, she was accepted into the prestigious Air Force pilot course, and at the end of her first year entered the course for fighter pilots. During her first solo flight on the T-6 Texan II training aircraft, known in the Israeli Air Force as “Efroni,” Tamar was forced to abort during landing due to a mishap and was wounded in the back. She needed a half-year of recovery and upon her return Tamar immediately joined the next combat navigator course while also studying for a bachelor’s degree in politics and government.
In January 2013, she completed the course and told Yedioth Ahronoth and YNET news: “I did not attend a pilot course in order to bear the Religious Zionist flag or as a representative of religious women. It just happened that way, naturally. An Air Force pilot wearing a skirt for her dress uniform seemed strange at first. Some asked out of interest and curiosity about how I pray regularly, retain modesty and the requirement not to touch men and the observance of the Sabbath. Soon we all got used to the situation. We even joked about the benefits of wearing a skirt and avoiding the need to tuck in pant legs above the boots. Anyway, my regular uniform is a jumpsuit just like everyone else,” she said.
Tamar served as a combat pilot navigator in the Jordan Valley Squadron and the most significant role she played was in command of the Intelligence and Navigation Division. She served as a navigator in the squadron for about a year, participating in thirty-three operational missions, twenty-one of which took place during Operation “Tzuk Eitan” in July-August 2014 against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Participation included assault missions throughout the operation, command of the Intelligence and Navigation Division, and participation in the operational efforts at the Israeli Air Force Command Center. At the end of the operation, Tamar was awarded the unit’s outstanding fighter by the squadron commander.
In the years after her death a number of institutions were dedicated in the honor of her name, including a high school in Netanya, an IDF preparatory school, an education and sports center in Masuot Yitzhak, a synagogue in Kibbutz Sde Nehemiah, a religious learning center in Yerucham, as well as numerous events, lectures, sporting competitions and more.