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(photo credit: Courtesy)
The search continues in Northern India's Parvati Valley for Amichai Steinmetz, an Israeli-American first reported missing on July 24.
Family, friends and volunteers have been coordinating with search teams from the beginning of the rescue operation.
Amichai, 24, from Ma'aleh Levona, set out on what was originally supposed to be a day trip on Tuesday, July 21. He left from Kiriganga with the intention of visiting Bunbuni, around 10 km. away. When he did not return by Shabbat, a friend he had made while traveling alerted the authorities.
At first the search was paid for with the $80,000 from a policy taken out with Harel Insurance. This money has run out and the effort is now being funded by the family, but according to Amichai's mother, Deborah, the money will run out next Sunday.
Steinmetz's parents, Jacob and Deborah, had been keeping in telephone touch with him via Skype, trying to speak to him every week before Shabbat.
"We have been between hope and despair. We wake up hopeful and go to sleep with a little more despair," Deborah Steinmetz told The Jerusalem Post last week.
"They say they have no trace of him, it is a very wide area, a very hilly area and there is an glacier there, it is also monsoon season," she said.
The family and the search teams have remained hopeful throughout. Jacob Steinmetz is in India helping to coordinate the search and Amichai's sister Orit, 20, has been out with the rescue teams.
"We are very optimistic, but we realize that it has been a very long time - we are optimistic that we will solve this riddle," Jacob told the Post. "My plan is to be on the next plane home as soon as we find him."
He has been staying with the Chabad House in Kosol, which he says have been extremely kind and helpful throughout. He also stressed the tremendous response they have had from Israeli travelers helping with the search, with up to 30 volunteers turning up each day.
Three of Amichai's friends from the army, from the Duvdevan undercover anti-terror unit, came to India to help search for him. One of them is still in the country along with Amichai's father and sister.
It is thought that Amichai may have decided to try to visit the Dibibokri Glacier (6,400 meters), which would have been a four- or five-day walk. An Israeli government source in India said, "We keep being optimistic; we will do whatever is needed to find him."
The area where Amichai disappeared is known to be particularly dangerous, especially for those travelling alone. Several backpackers have been killed or have disappeared from the Parvati Valley in recent years.
The Israeli Embassy in New Delhi has been in contact with the Steinmetz family, the Indian authorities and the US Embassy, all of which have given their full cooperation for the search. The Israeli delegation has been speaking to the local police, checking the villages in the area for any signs of Amichai and dividing tasks with the American Embassy.
The Israeli government source stressed that the chief of police in the district, Mr. Indoria, had been especially helpful.
Amichai had been travelling for nine months, spending most of his time in India. He was due to return to Israel in time for Rosh Hashana and to study archeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In additional to Orit, Amichai has another sister, Nava, 20, and a brother, Netanal, 17.
The search costs around NIS 150,000 per 10 days. Harel has a special unit trained in search and rescue that is coordinating the operation. The insurance company was unable to comment on the situation except to say it would do everything according to the terms of the policy and that its teams had gone above the call of duty in organizing the volunteers well as their own teams.
Amichai's friends and family have created a Facebook group to keep people up to date on the search and have initiated a campaign to raise the money needed to continue the search. In addition, a Web site, http://4amichai.org, has been created and the family have been handing out leaflets across Israel to raise money, alongside asking people to say Psalms and prayers for Amichai.