ZAKA,an internationally recognized humanitarian aid organization based in Israel has been compelled to ramp up their operations in light of the recent corona-crisis. Lockdowns and new regulations mean that the organization that is better known for specializing in collecting dead bodies has been compelled to improvise their methods of preserving the dignity of all of the Jewish people – alive or not.
The following is just a small sample of just some of the vital services that ZAKA provides the Israeli public as the covid numbers rise along with lockdown measures.
On Shabat (the Jewish Sabbath), members of Israel’s ultra-orthodox community, where positive test levels are relatively high, cease operating anything electronic. This means that if a member of the community got a covid test on Friday, they won’t know if they are positive until at least after sundown on Saturday since they have no access to phones or any other communication devices. In the interim, these people could be infecting others during prayer gatherings. But ZAKA’s volunteers have taken it upon themselves to inform those very people if they are indeed positive on Shabat. This stems the spread of the pandemic on all days of the week.
2. distribute food to families in Quarantine
When an entire family is in quarantine, they face many challenges. The most prominent however is food. If they can’t leave their house, they can’t buy food for their families. In ultra-orthodox communities, families usually have more than five children making the need especially dire. That’s why ZAKA has set up a team of volunteers to ensure that any family in quarantine that needs food, gets it with a smile.
3. Awareness Campaign for the elderly at home alone
Unfortunately, ZAKA is all too familiar with getting called to the homes of elderly people whose bodies were in an advanced stage of decay. That’s because oftentimes geriatrics who live by themselves, die in their homes and no one even realizes it until it’s too late. And during the covid lockdown, this problem has been exacerbated as many are concerned about leaving their homes (let alone checking in on their elderly neighbor). That’s why ZAKA has launched a campaign geared towards raising awareness of the problem and encouraging neighbors of the elderly to check in on them whenever they can.
4. Chesed shel Emes
During this time, ZAKA continues their holy work wearing protective gear that makes most astronaut suits look like child’s play. That’s because when handling dead bodies, ZAKA needs to protect against two threats – covid and infection from the dead. This means that they wear especially heavy gear such as gas masks and protective suits that are incredibly difficult to maneuver in. But nothing, not even suffocating gear in Israel’s sweltering heat, can prevent the volunteers from carrying out their holy tasks.
5.Jewish burials around the world
Although ZAKA has had to ramp up their operations during the covid crisis in Israel, they still manage to assist with Jewish burial rituals around the world – over 1,300 to be precise. And although this international endevor spreads their staff out thin, ZAKA understands the Biblical importance of honoring the dead who once housed a Jewish soul. Therefore, wherever there is a Jew in the world who passed on to the next world, ZAKA will be there for them.
To hear more about the important work ZAKA is doing both in Israel and abroad, simply go to their website: ZAKA.us