Woodmere resident Jaime Odinsky was one of 16 Americans and a group that included 53 others from around the world who were rescued by the Israeli rescue services in the southern Negev desert after a flash flood stranded a student group who were on a 10-day hike that began on May 7.
After finishing their 20 kilometer walk on their first day, the group made camp. “We had no cellular service and no contact with the outside world,” Odinsky said. “We set up our tents. It started to rain out of nowhere, which is extremely rare since we were in the desert. We thought it might pass, but it didn’t and it was too late at night to move our campsite.”
Odinsky, 19, said that the flash flood produced about two feet of a water in a few hours in an area near Hulit. “It was enough to keep us in place, at some points [the water] was higher,” he said.
Members of the group were finally able to get to a mountain and used a cell phone to call for help, Odinsky said.
A majority of the group were driven out by jeeps and those who felt ill were taken by helicopter, according to Mora Reijer, a student from Holland, who was part of the group. It took about four hours in total on May 8 from 7 to 11 a.m. to evacuate all the students and chaperones.
Heavy rain is not common but does happen occasionally in Israel at this time of the year. The storm occurred after a weeklong string of sunny days and high temperatures.
The hike came at the end of the yearlong program for the students, who were moved to a youth hostel for two days.
Odinsky will be returning home and plans on attending Hunter College in the fall and begin studying medicine.