Dear Ayelet, Ro'ee, No'a and Ofri,
It was with great shock and sadness that we received the news of Avner's death. It is so hard to translate feelings to words.
Avner was a colleague and friend. He was a graduate student at the Hebrew University when we were there, and later a postdoc in Princeton after we moved there. We have seen the kids born, and grow up, also after Ayelet and Avner made Toronto their home - a home it was always fun to stay over for the night, play and laugh with the kids and adults.
Avner had over the years a special connection with our oldest son Eyal, also a climber, which added another dimension to our friendship with Avner. Here is a small story about how this started.
Climbers face many dilemmas, which on the mountain are often truly life and death ones. And of course, their family and friends share concerns and dilemmas when they are on the mountain. This story is about a minor dilemma, faced by Avner many years ago, which started our special relationship. It was the first thing we both immediately remembered upon hearing the news of Avner's death.
It was 12 years ago. Avner was still a PhD student at the Hebrew University, and already an experienced ice climber. Our son Eyal was just 16, already a rock climber and wishing to begin his first steps of ice climbing. It was summer, and Eyal was in the Alps, about to climb Mont Blanc. Avner was aware of these plans, as both Eyal and us consulted him about it. The day before Eyal's planned ascent Avner came to talk to us. He said he has deliberated this conversation a few days, not knowing if to talk to us or not, and he finally decided to do it.
Avner told us that four friends of his has climbed Mont Blanc a few days earlier, and when descending, one of them slipped and fell to his death. He knew how concerned we were about this whole idea. He knew that we knew that death on the mountain is part of ice climbing, often for reasons beyond climbers' control. He knew how much Eyal wanted to do it. And he knew that Eyal is young enough for us to veto his climbing. So should he tell us something we already know (in principle), and endanger Eyal's plans? And if he doesn't tell and something happens, or if he does tell and we veto the trip, does he bear responsibility? The mountain generates far stranger and greater dilemmas.
That memorable day we were spared our own dilemma - what should we tell Eyal. He called to say that he decided to cancel this ascent, as the weather did not look good. But of course, Eyal's continued climbing career generated other dilemmas for us, and plenty more, for him. Avner shared our pride of Eyal's achievements, and listened to our fears andconcerns. There was only one person to talk to, within the span of minutes, about the relative advantages of different ice screws, and about proof complexity. It was wonderful knowing you!