By BEN HARTMAN
An Israeli family from Rosh Pina is in mourning after hearing news Tuesday that the body of their son Omri Lahad, missing in South America for a month, was identified in a small town in rural Peru Monday night.
Lahad, 23, had apparently died from a snake bite while hiking alone in a jungle area near the Peru-Brazil border.
Lahad's body was found by local villagers nearly a month ago, but was only identified once search and rescue teams began circulating photos of Lahad in the area on Monday. Shortly thereafter, the body, which was being kept in a police station in a rural area near the border with Brazil, was identified by the leader of the Israeli search party.
Omri Lahad, who was known by his nickname "Kipi" by friends and loved ones, was traveling in South America as part of his post-IDF journey, a ritual almost universally practiced by young Israelis fresh out of army service.
His last-known whereabouts was the town of Leticia, Colombia, where he withdrew money from an ATM before heading off for the rainforest, as part of his plan to travel through the jungles of the Amazon River basin south to Bolivia.
Lahad's story has resonated with thousands of Israelis, and a Facebook "event" page started by friends and his sister Michal on November 25th had attracted nearly 10,000 members less than a week after it was formed.
The event page, called "HELP! I am looking for OMRI!!!", was filled with condolence messages after news of Lahad's death broke in Israel Tuesday.
Nearly a hundred thousand people had been invited to join the facebook event and on the main page, information was displayed on how to donate money to bank accounts opened by the Lahad family in New York and Israel to accept donations to assist in the search. The Lahads were trying to raise $60,000 in order to hire a helicopter for four days of jungle searches.
On Tuesday, A facebook group started in memory of Omri had over 1,900 members by Tuesday afternoon. In pictures uploaded to the facebook page, the blue-eyed, blond-haried Omri can be seen hiking and playing the guitar, smiling and surrounded by wide-open expanses of nature in Israel and Latin America.
The search for Omri was led by Hilik Magnus, a well-known organizer of search and rescue missions for Israelis abroad. Magnus set up his operation over 13 years ago and regularly assists families searching for loved ones missing or addicted to drugs abroad.
On Tuesday, in a rural police station near the Peru-Brazil border, Magnus identified the body of Omri and had to break the news to a family hoping for a happy ending to their weeks of worry and distraught.
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