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Israel Society & Culture: Zaka

Founded in 1989 in Israel, ZAKA was originally formed to respond to terror attacks and deal with the retrieval, identification and burial of the deceased.

Since then ZAKA has grown to a world renowned humanitarian organization, providing search & rescue, autopsy prevention, medical response and mortuary services. With over 2,800 volunteers based in over 15 countries, ZAKA can provide rapid response and deployment in short notice providing their expertise and equipment where needed.

In 2003 a British Member of Parliament recommended that ZAKA be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2005, the United Nations recognized the ZAKA International Rescue Unit as an international humanitarian volunteer organization (NGO). As a result of its UN recognition ZAKA has since been requested to assist at natural disasters (e.g. Japan, Haiti, New Orleans, Thailand); plane crashes (e.g. USA, Mexico) and terror attacks (e.g. Mumbai, Mombasa, Istanbul).

Mortuary Unit

The mission of this deployable unit is to respond and assist local authorities in the retrieval, identification, transportation, and burial of the deceased. This division has a mobile morgue unit, which can be setup on a disaster site along with its forensic personnel to identify remains. All this while focusing on treating the deceased with the utmost respect and dignity.

Canine Unit

This specialize unit consists of 51 search and rescue dogs. Each dog has been trained with a Zaka Handler, and are deployable to be used around the world to assist in search and rescue operations.  A search and rescue dog can identify the scent or body heat of a person in distress or a deceased individual  for up to 48 hours after death. The dogs are capable of locating a deceased body in just five minutes in a 500 square meter area.

Dive Team

The Divers Unit is equipped with various levels of diving equipment whose immediate deployment capabilities are to search for people missing at sea or those in distress. The ZAKA Divers Unit is comprised of 207 professional divers, including ex Navy commandos, doctors, lawyers and businessmen who regularly train together. In February 2007, the Divers Unit flew to France to assist in the search for a missing Israeli diplomat and succeeded in locating and retrieving his body.

Search & Rescue

The ZAKA Search and Rescue Team (ZSART) provides skilled field personnel and SAR Management capabilities to assist in the location, rescue (extrication), and medical stabilization of victims trapped in confined spaces. Urban search and rescue is considered a “multi-hazard” discipline, as it may be needed for a variety of emergencies or disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, storms and tornadoes, floods, dam failures, technological accidents, terrorist activities, and hazardous materials releases. The events may be slow in developing, as in the case of hurricanes, or sudden, as in the case of earthquakes. These units conduct regular training exercises both internally and along with multiple worldwide agencies to develop and maintain their readiness.

Medical Unit

The Medical Unit is comprised of EMTs, Paramedics, Nurses and Physicians who respond to diverse array of emergencies. The team assists local medical responders, in  running the triage component for any mass casualty incidents (MCI). The medical personnel are required to maintain constant certification in accordance with worldwide medical emergency standards, and Zaka's additional training.

Hazmat Team

Hazardous Materials Response Team (Z-HMRT) is comprised of a highly select group of dedicated HAZ-MAT Technicians, that has trained for many years using multiple certification methods and whose diligence is not found elsewhere.

Autopsy Prevention

ZAKA has been safeguarding the dignity of the deceased since 1989. This includes advocating the prevention of autopsies and educating government officials and medical examiners across the world regarding proper handling for the deceased.

Missing Persons Unit

With over 2,800 ZAKA volunteers worldwide, hundreds of ZAKA volunteers can be deployed for missing person searches within hours. These volunteers along with their superiors are trained using The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and who carry all the necessary equipment for a missing person search.These volunteers are located across 15 countries, which allows for a rapid response.

Contact Info

234 Yaffo Street, P.O. Box 36060
Jerusalem Israel 91360  
Telephone: 972-2-501-5120
FAX: 972-2-501-5121
[email protected]

1303 53rd Street, Suite #170
Brooklyn, NY 11219
Telephone: 718-676-0039

Source: Kenneth Stephens, Risking Life & Limb to Save Lives & Offering Dignity to the Dead, International Media Placement, Guide for Jewish Giving in Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, 2002.