Published On: Sun, Oct 19th, 2014

I Know my Son in Nepal Is OK Because VISA Israel Told Me So

NEPAL-AVALANCHE

This story originally appeared in The Jewish Press

The VISA credit card company in Israel last week noted that one of its clients withdrew cash from Nepal after the disaster that killed several Israeli trekkers and called the hiker’s father to tell him his son was safe.

The father in this case is yours truly. The trekker is one of our sons, whose trip to India and Nepal was delayed for a week because he was busy shooting at terrorists from his tank as a reserve soldier serving in the Protective Edge campaign against Hamas.

Our son called on the morning before Yom Kippur to say he was leaving India after the fast and traveling to Nepal.

He routinely calls just before Shabbat or a holiday from a Chabad House, where there usually is mobile phone reception and where he joins hordes of other Israelis for Shabbat.

I was writing and listening to the radio last Wednesday morning, several hours before the Shemini AtZereth-Simchat Torah holiday began in Israel, when I heard on the radio that three one or more Israeli reportedly were killed in an avalanche in Nepal.

My first thought was that our son was okay. I don’t know why but I was not too worried. Just to be even calmer, I called my contacts at the Foreign Ministry.

The ministry knew no more than I knew – unconfirmed reports from foreign news agencies, and we agreed to update each other as we gathered information.

Within a minute, our son called from Nepal to wish us Chag Samayach – a happy holiday.

He did not mention the avalanche, but as soon as I asked him about it, he revealed that he was near the area and that there were missing Israelis who went on a hike out of the tourist agency with which he also is registered .

Our son reassured me that although he was “close but far” from the disaster, explaining that he was at a low level in the Himalayas while the trekkers caught in the landslide were much higher.

After trading information with the Foreign Ministry, which was happy to hear our son was safe, I went back to writing about the tragedy, the ISIS and whatever other horrid news there was.

The phone rang again, and after I picked it up and said “Shalom, ” the voice on the other stated, “Are you Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, father of “E—“?

“Nu?” I asked.

“I am calling from VISA, ” he said, “and I just wanted to let you know, in case “E’’’ has not been in contact with you, that we know he is safe because we noticed he withdrew money from Nepal today.”

I was overwhelmed.

Can you imagine an American credit card company calling Joe Blow’s father in East Podunk to tell him not to worry about the Blow family’s son because it knew he withdrew some money from his credit card, so everything must be all right?

I asked the VISA representative, “Who decided to call me?”

He answered that it was a management decision when an inspection of withdrawals revealed that one of their clients withdrew money from Nepal two days after the tragedy, when the names of missing and dead Israeli trekkers still were not known.

I and hundreds of thousands of other Israelis routinely damn the credit companies for being legal “thieves, ” renewing credit cards that require monthly payment but without informing the client after a year of free service, or for providing misleading information on conditions for using a credit card, or simply sending a credit card in the mail.

That is what happened last week when my wife received a credit card without asking for it. It was another gimmick to tempt people into making unnecessary purchases.

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