ZAKA Search and Rescue has just launched a new public awareness campaign aimed at saving lives among the elderly and lonely populations during the coronavirus crisis.
The campaign, which involves a daily check-up call to the elderly and those living alone, was triggered by an ongoing tragic situation in which the elderly and those living alone are also dying alone in their homes.
Two particularly tragic and disturbing incidents have taken place over the last few days. On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the decaying body of an 89 year old Holocaust survivor was discovered in her Beer Sheva home. Just a few days ago, ZAKA volunteers in Petach Tikva were called to an apartment where they encountered a tragic sight – a woman suffering from mental illness was trying to comfort and feed her 70-year-old mother, unable to comprehend that she had passed away over a week ago.
ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav: “We, the ZAKA volunteers, say enough! No more! This is a ticking time bomb. The elderly and those living alone are so vulnerable, especially at this time. Just one call a day could save a life. Now, with the government decision that those aged 67 and above must continue to stay at home to stay safe from possible infection with coronavirus, they are facing continued isolation, with no visitors allowed.
ZAKA calls on all Israelis to be mindful of those living alone in their neighborhoods and to reach out with a daily phone call. If you or someone you know would benefit from regular contact, please share your contact details with ZAKA, and we will arrange for a ZAKA volunteer to make those daily phone calls. As some of the elderly do not speak Hebrew, we will match up people according to their spoken language. We will ensure that they are not forgotten.”
To date, ZAKA volunteers have dealt with 35 incidents in 2020 and 130 in 2019 where those living alone have died alone.
Note: Members of ZAKA, most of whom are Orthodox Jews, assist ambulance crews, aid in the identification of the victims of terrorism, road accidents and other disasters, and where necessary gather body parts and spilled blood for proper burial. They also provide first aid and rescue services, and help with the search for missing persons and participate in international rescue and recovery operations.
The founders and members of ZAKA prefer to call the organization and their work Chesed shel Emet (חסד של אמת – “Kindness of truth”), because they are dedicated to ensuring that the bodies of Jewish victims are buried according to Halakha, Jewish law. After acts of terrorism, ZAKA volunteers also collect the bodies and body parts of non-Jews, including suicide bombers, for return to their families. The phrase Chesed shel Emet refers to doing “kindness” for the benefit of the deceased, which is considered to be “true kindness”, because the (deceased) beneficiaries of the kindness cannot return the kindness.