Concern is rising in Israel over the fate of Dor Cohen, a 23-year-old backpacker from Jerusalem, who has been missing since Wednesday while on a trek in the Caucasus Mountains in northern Georgia. A helicopter has been assisting in a widespread search effort in the area.
Cohen, an artillery lieutenant who completed his army service several months ago, left Israel last Sunday on the trip, together with a childhood friend. On Tuesday, they went on a trek to a town at the foot of Mount Shkhara, the highest point in the country.
Yehuda Cohen, Dor’s father, said that on Wednesday at noon, Dor and his friend arrived at a dense area and decided to split up. “They were supposed to meet up after ten kilometers at a prearranged spot, but at the appointed time, Dor did not arrive,” he said.
The friend waited for about two or three hours,and eventually continued by foot another ten kilometers to a village. He slept out in the open on his way. On Thursday morning, he arrived at the village and immediately phoned the Israeli consul in Tbilisi. A local police force was rapidly sent to the area. The Israeli friend showed this force where the two were supposed to have met. Police conducted searches, but to no avail.
Rescue teams continued their searches the following day, and were joined in the afternoon by a local team sent by the Harel insurance company with the help of a helicopter. They also failed to find the missing man. Searches continued throughout the day, and on Saturday a Harel team arrived on a helicopter from Tbilisi.
“There are guest areas all along the trek,” Dor’s father said. “It’s not considered a dangerous trek and we don’t understand what happened. The trek is supposed to take five days. Even if Dor had gone alnoe, he would have arrived in Ushguli today. Dor is an outdoorsman; he has gone on lots of trips for Israel.
The force searching in the field has searched almost the entire surrounding area, and in a conversation between the team and the Israeli ambassador in Georgia via satellite phone, they said they had searched the whole area and there were only 50 square kilometers left.
“On one hand, the fact that they haven’t found him gives me a little bit of hope that he moved on,” continued the father. “On the other hand – I don’t know what the conditions out there are, what could have happened to him. I have no idea. We are just waiting and losing hope with every moment that passes.”