By Shimi Grossman
I wanted to share my experience as a ZAKA volunteer with you.
There was a terrible, horrific accident on Highway 1 yesterday evening.
Dozens of ZAKA volunteers worked for hours to identify the victims and preserve their honor by gathering everything left there, so as to give them a Jewish burial.
Do you think that our work ended there?
No. Now we needed to begin the job of finding the families, of telling them the terrible news.
My dear fellow ZAKA volunteer Chaim, who unfortunately has so much experience in this, is standing in front of me: “Please go to one of the families to tell them of the terrible tragedy. True, it’s difficult, but they need to know before they see it on an evil WhatsApp message.”
He continues: “The parents are at a wedding in Bnei Brak. Some of the family is at home.”
And so, ever so slowly, comes another piece of information, this time a picture from a ZAKA volunteer at Abu Kabir Center of Forensic Medicine.
I am with some of the family in Yerushalayim and another ZAKA volunteer goes to the parents in Bnei Brak.
Chaim continues to send me out on these oh-so difficult missions.
This time to the yeshiva where a 19-year-old, the oldest of the family, is studying.
“Go find the rosh yeshiva, and together, with him at your side, slowly slowly, explain to him that his little brother died in the accident.”
At the same time, a volunteer in ZAKA northern region, dear Chezki, is with the boy’s parents in the north of Israel. And another ZAKA volunteer, Bentzi, is with another brother in a yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
With a conference call, and in an organized manner, trying desperately to comfort and console, crying together with them, we finally tell them the harsh news and complete our work.
Dear ZAKA volunteers,
It isn’t easy to be at a difficult incident like the one we witnessed together last night. Particularly somewhere where families are given dreadful news like this. You aren’t volunteers, you are angels. I don’t have words to describe the work you are doing.
Dear citizens, please act with extreme caution, care and sensitivity. Do not send out WhatsApp messages with names of the deceased and injured to people. The pain is indescribable when someone suddenly receives such a message, sent without thought, without consequence. It’s easy to write, but difficult to accept.
I am proud of you, volunteers and angels. Proud to be part of the ZAKA family.
May we never know any more sorrow.
With love and admiration, Shimi Grossman
Shimi Grossman, 31, married +4, is a veteran ZAKA volunteer and paramedic, a member of the ZAKA Rapid Rescue Motorcycle Unit in Yerushalayim. Grossman has years of experience in dealing with the aftermath of terror attacks, road accidents and other incidents of unnatural death, both in Israel and overseas as part of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit.