As part of its global initiative to train local volunteers in emergency preparedness and disaster management, the Israel-based, ZAKA volunteer rescue and recovery organization completed training last week of the first UK ZAKA International Rescue Unit. The ten-member UK unit joins a growing global network of volunteers in major Jewish communities in the USA, South America, Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the Far East, all trained and equipped to deal with any disaster or mass casualty incident in their region.
ZAKA Chairman and Founder Yehuda Meshi Zahav: “ZAKA, which is recognized by the United Nations as an international volunteer humanitarian organization, wishes to share its expertise with the global Jewish community so that we are able to better equip and prepare ourselves for any eventuality.”
The intensive week-long training workshop, led by Mati Goldstein and Dovie Maisel, the veteran co-directors of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, included emergency medical response, mass casualty triage and management, honoring the dead and basic forensics in accordance with Jewish law, ZAKA case studies (Mumbai, Haiti and the 2008 Mercaz Harav terror incident) and a mass casualty drill.
Mati Goldstein: “In those first critical days after a mass casualty incident, the local ZAKA International Rescue Unit volunteers serve as our ‘go-to’ team for their region. They are ready to be mobilized at short notice and can work in cooperation with the local emergency services to save lives and stabilize the situation before the arrival of the ZAKA team from Israel, as and where necessary.”
ZAKA Israel’s assistance at major international terror attacks (eg Mombasa, Istanbul and Taba) and natural disasters (eg the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina) led the United Nations in 2005 to recognize ZAKA as an international volunteer humanitarian organization. This UN recognition enables ZAKA to offer emergency assistance even before the official delegation has left Israel, or the host country has formally asked for help or even when the country has no diplomatic ties with Israel (eg when ZAKA helped the recovery efforts following a plane crash involving Israelis in Namibia and subsequently trained the local forensic police). Volunteers from the ZAKA International Unit were the first Israeli emergency personnel to arrive in Mumbai in November 2008 (the Chabad House siege) and the first Israeli volunteer team on the ground at the Haiti earthquake in January 2010.