Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a conference initiated by the Israel Democracy Institute.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
The ZAKA team which flew to Ethiopia in the hope of finding the remains of Shimon Re'em Bitton and Avraham Matzliah, the two Israelis who were killed in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that took the lives of the crew and all 157 passengers from countries around the world, has been frustrated by the intransigence of the Ethiopian authorities.
Because so many days already passed without the ZAKA team being allowed into what has become a restricted area, President Reuven Rivlin called Ethiopian President Sahle Work Zawde on Friday to explain the importance in the Jewish religion of burying the remains of deceased Jewish people in hallowed ground.
He said that ZAKA works not only to find and identify the remains of Jews, but also of anyone who died under catastrophic circumstances.
Rivlin explained the distress of the bereaved families who were waiting for closure, so that they could bury whatever may be found of their loved ones.
He said that he understood Ethiopia's responsibility under the circumstances and the reluctance of Ethiopia to allow foreign investigators to traverse the site until the Ethiopian investigators had completed their task, but asked that this be sped up so that the Israelis could undertake their search.
"The State of Israel will go anywhere in the world in order to bring home its loved ones," said Rivlin.
The efforts of ZAKA have been made more difficult by the fact that tractors have been driven across the site since the crash.
This means that whatever remains were still on the ground have been embedded or entirely crushed.
When The Jerusalem Post asked ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi Zahav what was the point in trying now in trying to find anything, not even someone's finger, Meshi Zahav replied: "If they find a finger that will be good." The implication was that a finger would be much more accurate than any other body part in helping to ascertain identity.
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