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‘What you’re doing is pure love to God’ - Simcha Greiniman, ZAKA volunteer, speaks about recovery work after Oct. 7

Israeli recovery volunteers collected thousands of remains following the Hamas invasion

Simcha Grieniman at NRB 2024 (Photo: ALL ISRAEL NEWS)

While attending the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Nashville, Tennessee last week, ALL ISRAEL NEWS sat down with Simcha Greiniman from ZAKA, an organization that recovers the bodies of deceased individuals following tragedies.

ZAKA stands for 'Zihui Korbanot Ason,' which translates to 'Disaster Victim Identification.' Volunteers with the ZAKA team have successfully helped recover the remains of victims from tragedies all over the world, not just in Israel. For example, their volunteers traveled to Turkey after the devastating earthquake last year, to Miami after the Surfside Condominium collapse, and to Haiti after the tsunami.  

“Anywhere around the world that we’re needed, we're there,” Grieniman said. “It doesn't make a difference which culture it is: Jewish, Islam, Christian - we're there for the people because we understand that’s the meaning of God's creation.” 

Since Oct. 7, ZAKA volunteers have been helping to recover remains from the attacks in Israel’s southern communities. 

In Orthodox Judaism, the soul of a person is in the blood, based on Leviticus 17. Therefore, when a person is being prepared for burial, it is necessary to bury the blood as well. One of the things that ZAKA volunteers do when recovering remains, is to collect all of the deceased person's blood for burial with the body. 

“That blood is the blood with the soul, and every drop is like a Bible that was burned,” Greiniman explained, “and when we have a situation where the Bible was burned, we collect every drop of ashes to make sure that we respect the Bible.” 

ZAKA volunteers, along with volunteers from other rescue and recovery services like United Hatzalah and IDF specialists have collected the remains of over 1,000 victims of the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7.

“It's very hard to understand what we went through,” Greiniman said. 

He stood before the United Nations to give testimony about the rape and mistreatment of women by Hamas terrorists on the day of the terror attack.

“I went to speak in the UN about women's rights and stood there before the world explaining what the women went through in those minutes. Standing there instead of them telling the story of what they went through.” 

Besides the victims, those working to collect remains also gathered the remains of the Hamas terrorists killed during the fighting. According to Greiniman, ZAKA treats all bodies with the same respect. 

“It was so hard dealing with the situation after the terror attack but still respecting those bodies by understanding that we are all creation of God and sometimes it's difficult to understand that,” Greiniman said.

ZAKA calls the care for the victim's deceased bodies 'chesed shel emet (true grace)' in Hebrew.

“Dealing with the deceased and knowing that the only one that could pay you for it, pay respect for what you're doing, is only by God,” Greiniman told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. 

“That's the perspective of understanding what it means to be a servant and it's an act of love to God, because how else?” Greiniman said.

“You cannot continue doing it without believing that you're on a mission of God and understanding that what you're doing is pure love to God.” 

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

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