My niece Yarden, the daughter of my brother Jony, was taken hostage by Hamas from Kibbutz Be’eri to Gaza on Saturday, October 7, 2023. She was an avid rock climber from an early age, well known in the small community of Israeli rock־climbing adventurers. Together with the Israel Climbers’ Association, we have put together a photo gallery of some of the climbing adventures in Israel – waiting for the day she returns to climb again
From ERETZ magazine – issue no. 187 – December 2023
My niece, Yarden Roman־Gat, was kidnapped at Kibbutz Be’eri on Saturday morning, October 7, together with her three־year־old daughter Geffen and her husband Alon. They were bundled into a small car by four terrorists that sped towards the border fence with Gaza. Near the fence, the terrorists spotted an Israeli tank and stopped for a minute. With Geffen in her arms, Yarden and Alon, in a split־second decision, jumped out of the car and began to run up a small ravine. The terrorists fired after them with automatic weapons and gave chase. After running for about 200 yards, with bullets zipping around them, Yarden handed Geffen over to Alon and told him to run as quickly as he could. Yarden took off in a different direction and took refuge from the bullets behind a tree, directing the fire and the terrorists toward her.
Alon, with Geffen, found a niche in the ground and scrambled into it, concealing their whereabouts with branches and bushes. For 12 hours, Alon and Geffen hid in their makeshift shelter with terrorists all around searching for them. The following day, Alon, with Geffen in his hands, made his way to the Kibbutz, where fighting between the terrorists and the army was still going on. Circumventing the Kibbutz, he reached the main road and the Israeli forces.
The next day, Gili, Yarden’s brother, went to where she had last been seen. He scoured the area for four days with volunteers from the armed forces, including Bedouin trackers. No trace of Yarden was found. She had been retaken by her captors and taken to Gaza.
Since she was a small child, Yarden loved the outdoors. Hiking and camping trips were her favorite pastime. Above all, she loved climbing. Rocks, cliffs, boulders, climbing walls, the lot. She was a member of her hometown climbing club, won a few trophies, and scaled many of the highest cliffs in the country. She met her future husband, Alon, at one of these climbing meets. Three months after they met, Yarden and Alon set out on a trip to the United States to reach some of the better־known sport־climbing sites.
After Geffen was born, adventures had to be toned down a little, but the love for the sport remained. They planned to visit Australia and New Zealand to reach well-known rock climbing sites.
Rock climbing in Israel is a young sport. However, it is gaining in popularity. In 2019, the Israel Climbers’ Association was founded to serve the approximately 15,000 climbing enthusiasts in the country. Rotem Jacobs, one of the Association’s directors, knows Yarden well. Three decades ago, the small group of cliff lovers met repeatedly in competitions, events, and on the cliffs. “In a small country like Israel,” says Jacobs, “there aren’t many authorized climbing sites. The most challenging is at Ein Prat, in the Judean Desert. Others are at Beit Ariyeh, the Timna Park in the southern Arava Valley – where the management of the park is encouraging the development of this challenging sport – sites in the Judean Mountains, in the Ramim cliff overlooking Kiryat Shemona, in the Carmel and more. One of the tasks of the Association is to add more official climbing sites around Israel.”
Timna Park is one of Israel’s most adventurous and challenging climbing sites. The Timna Valley is a horseshoe־shaped basin surrounded by high Nubian Sandstone cliffs in the southern Arava Valley. The Valley is famous for its many copper veins, one of the first places in the world where copper was mined. Archaeological excavations in the Valley have ascertained that copper mining activities started during the 5th and 6th millennia BCE and have continued throughout the ages. Dozens of copper mines and mining tunnels have been located in the Valley, with remnants of mining sites initially attributed to the Edomites and King Solomon (hence the sandstone pillars known as Solomon’s Pillars).
In Timna Park, over 85 climbing sites have been marked, 10־50meters high, encompassing all the different styles of sport climbing. The majority scale the smooth, straight sandstone cliffs; a few others scramble up single־standing boulders along the edges of the cliff face.
Climbers from around Israel volunteered to help with this article, sending us information and photographs of climbing events. The Climbers’ Association is planning a climbing event, open to the public, in honor of Yarden and as part of the efforts to keep the struggle to release all the hostages foremost in the public eye.
For information on the Israel Climbers’ Association (Hebrew), go to – www.ilca.org.il
For the Israeli Climbing Guidebook (English), go to: www.climbing-israel.com
For a professional guidebook on the Park Timna Climbing Park, go to https://www.parktimna.co.il/uploads/n/1674496980.2823.pdf