Rabbi Menachem Mendel Meshi-Zahav, father of ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, died from COVID-19 over the weekend at 84.
His wife, Sara Zisl Meshi-Zahav, died three days ago at 81 after combating the virus as well. Their son, Moshe, died three weeks ago, leaving Yehuda dealing with the deaths of three immediate relatives within a month.
“Death has knocked on our door... landing stroke after stroke on us,” the ZAKA chairman wrote in a Facebook post after the passing of his father. “All within 30 days. Our pain is as large as the ocean, who shall heal us?”
In a television interview while sitting shiva for his mother, Yehuda said that there had been a large family celebration during Hanukkah that he and his children had not attended, but everyone else who was there was infected with the coronavirus.
He entreated everyone to observe Health Ministry regulations, which he said he and his immediate family observe meticulously, but that it never occurred to him that COVID-19 would reach him in the most painful way, leading to the death of both his parents.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch expressed her sorrow for Meshi-Zahav’s losses, noting that “no words can express the magnitude of the sorrow felt when hearing about the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav’s father, while he sits shiva for his mother and within the 30 days since the passing of his brother, Moshe.”
Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rafi Peretz, who is also an Orthodox rabbi, noted that this terrible family tragedy only demonstrates how important it is to maintain the guidelines.
Education Minister Yoav Gallant also noted the importance of maintaining Health Ministry guidelines. “Protect yourselves and your close ones,” he wrote. “Maintain all guidelines without exceptions – it’s an issue of saving human lives.”
Before founding ZAKA, a voluntary organization of community emergency response teams, Yehuda was an active anti-Zionist. But in July 1989, he was involved in a search-and-rescue operation for dead and injured victims following a terrorist attack on a bus that crashed below the yeshiva where he was learning, which changed his outlook.