Israeli American kidnapped in Ecuador
An Israeli American man was kidnapped on Sunday while hiking in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.
Mickey Grossman, 64, embarked on an Amazon trek over three months ago with the purpose of raising awareness for the destruction of rainforests, whose plants have yielded a variety of medications, including the cancer drugs that saved his own life a few years ago.
Grossman, a former IDF paratrooper, fought under Ariel Sharon in the Yom Kippur War. He moved to the United States with his wife and four children two decades ago, setting up a homestead in Orlando, Florida. The former police detective then became a businessman and an Amazon tour guide.
Grossman, who was accompanied by six porters, was supposed to cover an unprecedented course of 5,000 miles stretching between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. According to his son, Shahar Grossman, they have managed to trudge 1,200 miles so far.
The group has recently reached the Yasuni National Park, which does not allow Westerners to enter.
"This is the Indians' area, and they do not like foreigners," Shahar said.
Making an effort to avoid being detected in the jungle, the group made its way east, to Brazil. At one point they were forced to build a raft that carried them down a river, where they were discovered and captured by apparent forest dwellers.
Grossman had last made contact with his family on Sunday, before his satellite phone was taken away. The hiker's family has been in touch with the United States Department of State and the US ambassador to Quito, who promised to seek his release. The authorities in the US are keeping the family updated on the progress of their efforts.
The team's satellite equipment continued to transmit, so as of Monday, its location was known. But that wasn't enough to alleviate the Grossman family's concerns.
"There have been past cases in which the (tribesmen) just killed their captives because they were white," Shahar said. "They hate white people because of the oil companies that operated in the area in the past."
According to the family, Grossman's team was hijacked by a group of 15 armed gunmen whose affiliation was unclear, as well as several members of the Huaorani tribe that is native to the area. The team was taken to a site located 30 miles away from the camp where it was staying.
"I am sitting and waiting impatiently for more information," Noga, Grossman's wife, said. She anticipated that if her husband is rescued, he will continue the trek, although his equipment was seized by the captors.
"He won't give up on this journey easily," she added. "He can still avoid these tribes down the road. He's very stubborn. He won't give up the equipment easily either, although it's a little different when you have gun pointed at your face."
She said that her husband called her against the captors' orders shortly before his phone was taken away.
"He told me, 'They want to kill me, but I won't go like a sheep to the slaughter,'" Noga said.