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Born in Berkeley, California, and a product of both Yale University and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s circle, Odenheimer is an open-minded, easygoing, live-and-let-live kind of guy.With messy hair and an even messier wardrobe of crumpled jeans and T-shirts, he seems to have no eye for the negative in others – and zero interest in jumping on the bandwagon of Israeli backpacker bashing.Or, she and any of the other staffers who happen to be in Kathmandu for the weekend might just stick around the local bakery in their Swayambhu neighborhood, sipping spicy Nepali tea. Its narrow, potholed streets filled these past days with the newly homeless huddling together, as the rain cruelly began to pour down.The injured are camping out around the overwhelmed hospitals.“I wanted to teach something about the ethical traditions at the heart of the Torah,” he says, “and to help youngsters connect those values of Judaism to the universal. “Let’s start giving some thought to what vulnerability and poverty mean,” suggests Noga Shafer-Raviv, 29, Tevel’s director of community development, who has offered up her student apartment for the get-together.“What if the Israeli jaunt through the Third World could be harnessed to transform the thinking of the new generation? “Could it spark an Israel that was not only a high-tech power, but also a place where original and important ideas arose to address the great ethical dilemmas raised by globalization and poverty? “There are always those who arrive in the villages and say, ‘Look! “Let’s start that conversation.” Odenheimer’s pilot program – once a simple operation in which volunteers were recruited, placed with local NGOs, and later got together for some ad hoc Judaism classes – has, over the years, evolved into a much more serious organization.Out in the courtyard, Anat Brandes, 22, from Kfar Sava – just recently out of her two years’ army service training Bedouin soldiers – is strumming some Simon and Garfunkel on her guitar, alongside Michael Green, a 23-year-old New Yorker between college and medical school.
The small international airport has reopened, but it’s chaotic: Thousands of other foreign tourists, are still trying to figure out how to get out of the country – even as international aid organizations and expat Nepalis desperate to return home are trying to get in. The circular, clockwise movement around the base of the ancient Buddhist temples and shrines at Swayambhu begins before dawn.Aftershocks and tremors continue, terrifying Nepalis and reaching all the way into neighboring China and India.Meanwhile, iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites and popular tourist attractions – some dating back more than 1,700 years – have been reduced to piles of rubble: Ancient Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries have all collapsed.Monkeys leap from the statues to the icons to the electric wires, and into the trees.In the suburb below that bears the temples’ name is a neighborhood of narrow lanes leading to guesthouses for Buddhist pilgrims, orphanages, meditation centers, Ayurvedic pharmacies – and one particularly big house with a little rainbow-colored “Welcome” sign scotch-taped to the door.