The number of Israelis believed to have been in or near Christchurch when the devastating earthquake hit there on Tuesday and who are still unaccounted for dropped from 21 to four on Thursday night, according to Army Radio.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, who had earlier put the number at 15, stressed that these Israelis were classified as not having made contact either with their families in Israel or with consular officials in Christchurch, but they were not classified as missing.

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There is no certainty that all were in Christchurch when the earthquake hit, although two of them were seen in the city on the day of the temblor, he said. The others may have been on hikes outside the city.

Ofer Mizrahi from Kibbutz Magal in Wadi Ara, who is feared dead after a boulder smashed into his car, is the only Israeli characterized as missing, Palmor said. In all likelihood, some of those who have not made contact with family are on hikes and may not even be aware of the earthquake, he said.

There are two Israeli diplomats in Christchurch working with the local authorities and the Israeli backpackers in the city to help look for the unaccounted- for Israelis. They are also expediting the processing of documents for Israelis who lost them in the earthquake and need them to leave the country.


Gil Shefler adds: New Zealand’s Bnei Akiva youth group on Thursday started a campaign to raise money aimed at helping the Jewish community. “The money is intended to help the small Jewish community in the city,” said Moshe Naor, a Bnei Akiva representative in New Zealand. “It still isn’t clear what kind of damage was done to the synagogue or which members of the community need help.”

The Bnei Akiva chapter in Auckland will collect and distribute the funds.

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