Mati Goldstein, a 31-year-old haredi father of
four whose profession and hobby are rescuing people, subsisted on water
and kosher energy bars and finally kosher US Army food during his
10-day stay in Haiti saving victims of the earthquake.
"I lost some weight and have narrowed my belt by one hole," he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
soon after returning home on Monday. The Israeli-born son of a New
Jersey-born former immigrant said he was willing to go to any future
disaster if his help were needed.
The ZAKA rescue and recovery organization volunteer was in
Mexico searching for the remains of the four members of the Saba family
who crashed in a helicopter when called to help out in Haiti. The
Mexican Jewish tycoon, Moishe Saba, his wife, son and daughter-in-law
were killed in the air accident. After they were buried, Goldstein flew
to Haiti without taking any kosher food.
He was accompanied by Orthodox volunteers from the Mexican
Kedena organization, and five ZAKA rescuers worked with the Mexicans,
along with the search dogs they brought, in Haiti. They were given
seven vaccinations each on the plane, he said.
They survived several dangerous incidents and pulled
a number of students and lecturers out of the debris of the university
The team arrived on Thursday, January 14, and worked on
Shabbat, after receiving permission from their rabbis, when they
rescued people. Those they pulled out had suffered fractures but are
recovering, he said. The Mexican authorities invited Goldstein to their
country to receive an award, but he said he would wait a month until
going there for business.
has much disaster experience, as he participated in rescues after a
crash in Buffalo, New York, the terrorist attack in Mumbai, the
Thailand tsunami and other catastrophes. Having spent a decade as a
ZAKA volunteer, the Mevo Horon resident has his own company that
teaches hospital staffers and others how to save lives in mass-casualty
One of the hardest things was not being able to speak to his
family for days due to the lack of satellite phones: His wife gave
birth to their youngest child just two months ago, and their oldest is
six years old.
"It was just like the stories we are told of the
Holocaust - thousands of bodies everywhere. You have to understand that
the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more
and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It was beyond
comprehension," he said.
The horrible scenes did not give him nightmares, as he was
rewarded with "a very good feeling" from helping to save the lives of
innocent Haitian victims. "We were told there might be Jews there, so
the rabbis said to go. Once there, we were very happy to save non-Jews
in need," he said.
Asked if it was frustrating to rescue people who might die of
disease or hunger in the near future, Goldstein said that the Israeli
delegation and the world were trying their best to keep survivors
alive. "After an earthquake, the first week is spent rescuing, the next
two weeks treating the wounded and sick, and then taking care of a lot
of the chaos. We did the maximum. Each catastrophe is different and we
learn from it."
The ZAKA/Mexican team were guarded by UN people from Jordan and Qatar, he said. "There was no disagreement."
The Jewish team appeared odd in their black haredi garb,
especially when they were praying with phylacteries and in prayer
shawls, but they earned a lot of respect.
There was violence, and one foreign rescuer in Haiti was
wounded in the crossfire when desperate locals tried to break into
He dismissed claims that the US did not perform speedily and
well after the earthquake. "They did not bring a field hospital, as it
was decided that they would focus mostly on security, and they did that
well," Goldstein said.
ZAKA, which has 1,500 volunteers, is raising money for its operations at www.zaka.us
Meanwhile, the IDF confirmed that its medical and rescue team in
Haiti will conclude its operations in the next few days and its members
will return to Israel by Thursday.
It said the decision came following the arrival of additional
aid forces to Haiti, including members of the US military and other,
civilian aid-givers, who are now providing regular medical services.
Furthermore, many of the local hospitals are at a sufficient level of
functionality, it said.
On Tuesday, the team will cease receiving new patients and
begin preparing to returning to Israel on a direct flight on Wednesday.
The delegation is scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.