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Passersby unfold grimy five rupee notes (five cents) to buy incense and butter candles at the spice store nearby.

Boney, flea-ridden mutts roam the 365 stairs leading up the east side of the site to the fifth-century white stupa above, barking madly one moment and lying motionless the next.

Through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, India and Nepal they traipse – typically as one big happy family of faded army unit T-shirts.

Monkeys leap from the statues to the icons to the electric wires, and into the trees.

In the suburb below that bears the temples’ name is a neighborhood of narrow lanes leading to guesthouses for Buddhist pilgrims, orphanages, meditation centers, Ayurvedic pharmacies – and one particularly big house with a little rainbow-colored “Welcome” sign scotch-taped to the door.

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Shira Langer was heading into a lazy day. More than 7,000 people were killed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal just before noon on April 25th, and the death toll continues to climb.

Typically, Saturday’s find the 31-year-old senior staffer in the Israeli organization Tevel b’Tzedek’s Nepal office heading over to the Thamel tourist zone, to give in laundry and maybe take a vinyasa class at a favorite yoga studio. Kathmandu, an overcrowded city of an estimated 2.5 million people, with shaky infrastructure and weak public services at the best of times, has been all but brought to its knees.

“It seemed to me the problem was that they had no real way to sink their teeth into what they were seeing,” he adds.

“And so I got thinking of starting a program that would give their travels a new dimension.” Odenheimer wanted, he explains, to both awaken within these travelers an awareness of the need for global social and economic justice, and to relate that to where they were coming from.

This is – this was – Tevel’s Kathmandu headquarters.

Or, as it is also known, “the big house.” This is where the NGO volunteers in Nepal would come, in between their stints in the field – for rest, relaxation and a little Yiddishkeit among the monks, pollution, monkeys and buddhas. That’s when Rabbi Micha Odenheimer took his kids out of school for a few months and went on a family trip to India.

A 260-person strong Israeli military search and rescue crew is in Nepal to help locate survivors in the rubble and has set up a medical field hospital for locals.

The small international airport has reopened, but it’s chaotic: Thousands of other foreign tourists, are still trying to figure out how to get out of the country – even as international aid organizations and expat Nepalis desperate to return home are trying to get in. The circular, clockwise movement around the base of the ancient Buddhist temples and shrines at Swayambhu begins before dawn.

The Tevel b'Tzedek group has been assisting poor Nepalese communities for almost a decade.