ZAKA inaugurates new diver rescue unit

Haredi volunteer organization widens its disaster scene response capability with skilled scuba squad.

ZAKA 298 Ap (photo credit: )
ZAKA 298 Ap
(photo credit: )
ZAKA, the humanitarian voluntary organization of rescue workers who respond to tragic incidents such as terrorist bombing and shootings in Israel, have founded a divers rescue unit and have completed their first winter training programme. The unit was formed after ZAKA took part in the search for Moshe Kaniel, a Bnei Brak attorney who drowned off the Tel Aviv coast more than a month ago and whose body was eventually found at Palmahim beach. As ZAKA had no volunteers with underwater experience so they approached diving clubs and schools to help in the search for Kaniel, 30 volunteers came forward to assist in the week-long operation. As a result, the divers came to ZAKA with the idea of formalizing the new relationship and a decision was made to set up the diver rescue unit. A month after finding Kaniel's body, ZAKA's diver rescue unit was inaugurated at a ceremony on Tel Aviv beach. The unit is comprised largely of secular volunteers, something that the ZAKA chairman Dudi Zilbershlag takes pride in. Sigala Shoham of Tel Aviv said: "When you're searching for a body, the gap between secular and Haredi melts away, when you need to do the job, you simply jump into the water." Training began in Tel Aviv and the winter session in northern Israel and will continue next month in Eilat. The training sessions are at the volunteers' own expense and involves practising rescue techniques to refine the divers' navigation and search skills. Sessions also included searching for planted dummies and other items as well as the completion of difficult tasks such as writing underwater. Chaim Otmazgin, the unit commander, commented: "After briefing them, I could not help but smile at these heroes whose heads were underwater, but whose hearts have chosen to connect with the community of ZAKA volunteers. In their own way, they were expressing their dedication to the cause." ZAKA is the main rescue, life saving and recovery non-governmental organization in Israel. Founded in 1995, the respected organization has over 1,000 volunteers working alongside law enforcement and emergency personnel in responding to incidents of terrorism, accidents or disasters.