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ZAKA’s Other Work

November 12, 2009
By: Eli Berlzon and Na’ama Shilony. Edited by Ori Lewis.

Dozens of body bags layed out neatly on the pavement in central Jerusalem is a sight the city has been pleased to be rid of in recent years after a period of regular bombing and shooting attacks that killed scores of city residents in the early part of the decade.

On Tuesday, such scenes were again visible just outside Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Thankfully it was just a protest organised by an emergency rescue service to highlight Israel’s traffic accident death rate. The body bags were empty.

The unusual spectacle was organised by ZAKA, known worldwide for it’s expertise in the gathering and identifying human remains after bombing attacks and natural disasters.

As Palestinian suicide bombings and other violent acts against Israelis decreased in recent years, ZAKA volunteers, who have often caught the eye of camera operators when seen carefully collecting human remains at explosion sites, have expanded their work into new fields.

Today, the 1,500 strong ZAKA force, made up almost entirely of Jewish Ultra Orthodox volunteers, assist in emergency cases all over Israel. Their members are often first at the scene upon receiving news of deaths at traffic accidents. ZAKA’s agile motorcycle unit also provides first aid, and has been called to assist abroad, including after the Mumbai attacks and during the tsunami disaster in Asia.

With International Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims being observed this Sunday (November 15), ZAKA used it’s most dramatic tools to illustrate to legislators how many people die yearly on Israel’s roads.

Some 400 Israelis are killed on the road every year, and the latest research by the European Transport Safety Council has shown that Israel ranks eighth out of 30 in the number of road accident deaths per million residents.

Research by non-governmental organisations show that Israeli drivers report driving over the speed limit more often than their European counterparts, and say they also use their mobile phones more while driving.

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