First Israeli Scales Mount Everest Erel at Mount Everest in 1992 holding an Israeli flag. Photo: Israel21c

May 12, 1992

Doron Erel, the 33-year-old son of Holocaust survivors who made aliyah on the Exodus 1947, becomes the first Israeli to reach the summit of Mount Everest in an expedition with 13 other climbers led by Rob Hall, a New Zealander who makes it to the top of Everest five times but dies on his sixth attempt in 1996.

Erel, a resident of the Beit Oren kibbutz in northern Israel, has maintained a deep interest in exploring from a young age and has been a full-time mountain climber since completing his service in the Israel Defense Forces, where he was a member of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. After training in the Alps and gaining experience in the Sinai and Alaska, he became the first Israeli to summit Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska in 1987. He also led the first group of Israelis permitted to climb in the Soviet Union (accompanied by a KGB agent) in 1989.

After climbing Mount Everest, Erel completes the Seven Summits — making it to the top of the highest peak on each continent. In 2004, he is part of an expedition called Breaking the Ice, an Extreme Peace Missions expedition of four Israelis and four Palestinians to climb an unconquered mountain in Antarctica. After reaching the summit, the group names the peak the Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship.