Tragedies abroad

The bad news enveloped the Succot holiday – at its outset and its close.

Succot preparations of etrogim and branches for a lulav. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Succot preparations of etrogim and branches for a lulav.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Page-one images of smiling, confident young Israelis who lost their lives in extreme adventures abroad pierce our hearts.
It is no exaggeration to say that these promising persons were our society’s crème de la crème. They included engineering and medical students and the IAF’s first Orthodox female navigator. Two died on October 8 while white water rafting in Peru and a mere week later four others were killed in a Himalayan avalanche in Nepal.
The bad news enveloped the Succot holiday – at its outset and its close.
The photos of men and women who never got to live their lives in full were distressing – even after the wrenching funerals of this summer, which saw the kidnap/murder of three teenage schoolboys and then a 50-day war with 71 fatalities.
Our nation had known its share of mourning in recent months, but this was different. Wartime fallen – be they military or civilian, on the front lines or the home front – are unavoidable, particularly in a round of violence we did not initiate and did not aim to prolong.
Sad as their sacrifice was, soldiers put themselves in harm’s way for a cause.
The same cannot be said, however, for the adventurers who seek thrills in some of the most dangerous spots on earth. These happen to be in third world countries, where preventative supervision to avert calamity is lacking and where rescue and medical services are well below par.
Those who flock to these attractions must entertain at least fleeting misgivings and awareness that they are taking enormous risks. As with many hardy young folks, though, fear is often overridden by the assumption that “it won’t happen to me.”
We have buried too many victims of superfluous treks. Some stumbled to their deaths from steep cliffs in remote corners of Asia and South America.
Others were murdered by thugs in lawless domains.
Members of the generation that decries the price of dairy treats are not deterred from putting their lives on the line for dubious, transient excitement.
Members of the same generation that carps about the cost of housing find no fault with squandering significant sums on exotic vacations from which not all return.
Something is wrong. Something is skewed in the scale of priorities and values.
The argument that this is the result of the pressure of military service and Israel’s isolation in a sea of enemies fails to convince. There are venues overseas where the perils are fewer, even if the buzz is not as high.
This is a psychosocial phenomenon of no negligible magnitude. The penchant of the sons and daughters of a small, beleaguered nation to clamber up the highest, farthest mountains and ford the wildest, most distant rivers boggles the mind.
This, moreover, has become a bizarre rite of passage that all too many young Israelis regard as owed them. Conformity to this perception goes largely unchallenged. Too many prefer to run with the pack rather than question its premises.
Indulgent parents often bankroll the adventure after failing to put up strenuous opposition. Proportionally, parents are far less accommodating in even the best-heeled societies of North America and Europe, where hazardous excursions are not regarded as an inalienable birthright.
Israeli travelers frequently band in groups of compatriots and, as a result, when disaster strikes it hits more of them at once, compounding the tragedy.
Israel’s urban fashion is to affect suffocation because we live in a turbulent part of the globe. We love to moan and tell ourselves that trekking in farflung wilderness settings is a must to recharge our depleting batteries.
The time has come to reexamine these truisms.
The time has come for parents to resist the pressure of their demanding adult offspring. The time has come to fearlessly and openly campaign against this profligate recklessness with precious lives.


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