Israeli mountain climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda, who gained international fame when he halted his climb of Mount Everest 300 yards from the summit to help a Turkish climber who was near death, has received the Florida International University Medallion of Courage.
The Medallion of Courage honors individuals who pursue or defend a noble cause at a personal cost. Ben-Yehuda is the second recipient of the medallion. It was first awarded in April to Cuban independent journalist Yoani Sanchez.
“It is indeed humbling to be able to recognize this young man,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, who presented Ben-Yehuda with the medallion during a Tuesday commencement ceremony at the U.S. Century Bank Arena on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus. “He is a pinnacle of compassion. He has shown us what it means to be human.”
Last May, Ben-Yehuda was close to the peak of Mount Everest when he turned back to assist Aydin Irmak, who had been incapacitated by the extreme conditions. Ben-Yehuda carried Irmak for hours to a lower-elevation base. As a result, Ben-Yehuda, then 24 years old, gave up an opportunity to realize his goal of becoming the youngest Israeli to reach the top of Mount Everest.
“We, as future politicians and world leaders, carry the burden of responsibility,” Ben-Yehuda said after accepting the medallion. “Every hard fall I take while climbing, broadens my shoulders. Everything you choose to do, and every choice you make will widen your shoulders so you can carry that burden.”
After recovering from his own injuries, Ben-Yehuda returned to climbing and recently planted an Israeli flag on Mount Kazbek, part of the Caucasus mountain range in Georgia. Since then, he has founded the Buds of Friendship Initiative for children caught in the cross fire of the Israel-Hamas conflict.