ZAKA – Identification, Extraction and Rescue – True Kindness
April 17, 2018

By Tim Lachapelle

ZAKA - Identification, Extraction and Rescue - True Kindness by Tim Lachapelle{3:48 minutes to read}  The international rescue organization known as ZAKA began in 1989, when Yehuda Meshi-Zahav went into the scene of the 405 Bus terror attack with a number of fellow college students and volunteers. They tried to help the many people injured, but their main purpose was to recover remains and ensure that the bodies of Jewish victims were buried according to Jewish law. Trained in light search and rescue, this group of volunteers continued for the next six years to rush to the scene of any emergency to recover the remains of the dead.

In 1995, ZAKA, a Hebrew acronym for Zihuy Korbanot Ason (disaster victim identification), was officially founded as an Israeli non-governmental rescue and recover organization. They now have over 3,000 volunteers deployed across Israel and are on call 24/7 to respond to any terror attack. They have a variety of different rescue units, including an ATV, motorcycle, Jeep, canine, and divers. The Chesed Shel Emet or “True Virtue” unit specializes in honoring the dead and ensuring a full Jewish burial for those who meet a sudden death.

ZAKA was founded by people in the Orthodox Jewish community, and a lot of the focus is on getting people a proper Jewish burial. However, as the organization expanded, they included people of all walks of life into their ranks.

ZAKA now goes around the world training and equipping volunteer rescue units modeled after the original rescue unit in Israel. They certify volunteers as emergency medical first responders in a five-day basic training program. The volunteers are trained in security preparedness and response, as well as ways to honor and respect the dead.

One of the most important things that ZAKA teaches is how to work in concert with existing first responder groups. If ZAKA has the chance to respond immediately to a terror attack or natural disaster, the task is to help as many people as possible right away, and set up proper camps and shelters so that when the first responders get there, everything is organized and ready for them. ZAKA volunteers tailor their response so that they’re not interfering with first responders’ established practices.

Last May, ZAKA International Rescue Unit volunteers took part in this year’s U.S. National Guard multinational emergency drill in Indiana, where they simulated a variety of different disaster scenarios.

In 2004, ZAKA was recognized as a United Nations humanitarian organization. In January 2016, the group was officially granted status as a U.N. consultant non-governmental organization.

ZAKA believes people of all ages and walks of life should take emergency first responder training. It’s nice to know that there is a community of people who are willing and able to respond in any situation.

ZAKA has established the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, with hundreds of volunteers in Israel and around the world, who are ready, equipped and able to respond in the fastest time to a mass casualty incident or terror attack, wherever it occurs. [1]


[1] “How ZAKA Began.” ZAKA,