I met Avner when I visited the Hebrew University in 1996. I am certain I did not meet him on the first day. He wrote to me about six months ago: "The news is that I am arriving to India with Roy (13 yo, born the day you came to huji if I remember correctly...)." When we did meet, a few days later, he was working in the lab and listening to music on his radio.
We met and talked often. I learnt that he had visited central Asia and climbed mountains there. He showed me pictures of many of these places, including a rocky peak (in Turkey I think), where you shouted something each time you dislodged a rock and sent it crashing down, so that climbers below could watch out. I learnt that he loved the sounds of the Russian language, and had picked it just by listening. My Russian-speaking friends confirmed that he was excellent at it.
He tried to teach me to climb. He took me a few times to practise at the Valley of Hinnom. One of these visits I remember quite vividly today. Since traversing the rocks there was rather easy for him, he did not bring any helmets for us. He allowed me, however, to use my bicycling helmet. He told me about how he spent some time climbing in Switzerland in the company of a Scotsman, and imitated his accent. He was very patient, when my limbs did not respond to the Scotsman's commands. I also remember the conversation while we were packing up as the sun was going down. He suddenly stopped and said: "You are not interested in what I am saying. You are not paying attention". To redeem myself, I immediately repeated the three previous sentences. He said: "That does not mean you were paying attention. Ayelet does the same thing all the time!" A few weeks later, he promised to take me on a more challenging climb. He came home on Friday morning. My parents were visiting us then. I remember him mentioning to me as we got into his car that my father asked him "his good name." He was amused when he heard that this was some sort of politeness translated from Hindi into English. He thought hard as to why one would say such a thing, as if considering if it was a custom he would want to adopt himself.
As the time approached for us to leave Jerusalem, Sumana and I were invited for dinner. We met Ayelet for the first time at their place. In the years since, I have met him off and on, each time renewing old memories and forming new ones. I visited him in Toronto and stayed at their place: Royi had grown up and Noa was still very small. Noa and I got along so very well, I got a certificate from Ayelet for being good with small kids. Avner had to cut it off by saying that it was bedtime, not time to be silly. He took me to an ice hockey stadium near his home.
He got in touch a few months before his visit to India in December 2009. When we met in Kanpur, he seemed very happy. I invited him to Mumbai, but he had already planned the visit to Nepal.
We will miss his warmth. Whenever he was around, the world just seemed very comfortable, rather the world did not seem to matter. He smiled, he mocked, he understood, he explained, and whatever did not yield to these, he just took in his stride.
I wish to convey my deepest respect to the members of his family, some of whose messages I just read here. I respected Avner for his originality and independence, but believe what we admired in him was derived after all from those he was closest to. I draw comfort from the fact that these virtues still survives in them, and hope that recognising this will help them get over the terrible tragedy of his passing.