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Netanyahu thanks volunteer emergency responders for ‘sacred work’ following Hamas massacre

Israeli premier encourages responders to speak out about the horrors they witnessed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with ZAKA members, Nov. 23, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Thursday with members of the ZAKA volunteer emergency response organization to listen to the testimony of those who bore witness to the horrible atrocities committed by the Hamas terror group against innocent civilians on Oct. 7.

Netanyahu thanked ZAKA President Eyal Mashiach, CEO Dubi Weissenstern, and the ZAKA commanders and volunteers for their hard work during the war and asked them to continue to tell the public about the horrors they witnessed. 

During his visit, he learned about the volunteers’ arduous work to locate and identify the bodies of those murdered in the horrific attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7. Among the atrocities, they mentioned the tying up family members and setting them on fire, murdering small children, the need to verifying kills, the brutal raping of women, and more. 

Netanyahu thanked the volunteers and asked them to continue to tell the public about the horrors they witnessed.

ZAKA members are trained as paramedics and are on-call 24 hours a day. They come from a variety of backgrounds within Israeli society: Jews, Arabs, religious and secular.

The organization’s name ZAKA comes from the Hebrew Zihui Qorbanot Ason (זיהוי קורבנות אסון), which stands for Identification of Disaster Victims. Team members work to ensure that victims of attacks are given a proper Jewish burial, according to rabbinic law. 

ZAKA was first established in 1995 after a group of religious volunteers helped recover the remains of victims of the 1989 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) suicide attack on the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem 405 Egged bus line. 

Since its founding, ZAKA has become an international organization, sending volunteers to help with rescue and recovery efforts in many countries outside of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with ZAKA members, Nov. 23, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

"You have given direct testimony of the most terrible horrors that have been perpetrated against the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” Netanyahu told the ZAKA team during the meeting. “

The only difference between what happened in the Holocaust and what happened in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip is the ability; if they could have, they would have slaughtered us all.” 

Netanyahu recounted his visit to the Bedouin Desert Patrol Unit, which contains a mixed group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. 

“I visited the Bedouin Desert Patrol Unit in which Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Christians, fight shoulder-to-shoulder. The Bedouin officer told me that, like you, he went there: 'The first thing that I saw on the way to the highway was the decapitated body of a woman, and I understand who we were facing.’" 

“You saw the whole range of these horrors,” Netanyahu told the volunteers. “First of all, I want to thank you for the strength of spirit to see such things and yet continue. I hope that you are taking care of yourselves; that is also important.” 

The prime minister said the work of giving testimony helps fight the war being waged in public opinion, telling them they "have an important role in influencing public opinion, which also influences leaders.”

“You are also doing this sacred work and when you talk among yourselves and to the outside world, you must speak out. These are powerful stories and we are in a major fight.” 

“I would like to tell you that the entire nation and all citizens of Israel appreciate what you are doing. We always appreciate it, but today how much more so because the horrors are much greater, and you need to draw strength from this appreciation. This is the true expression of the unity of Israel. I want to tell you I am very impressed and full of appreciation. I thank you on behalf of all citizens of Israel.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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