In Light of Rocket Attacks: Israel Looking for Volunteer Search & Rescue Dog Handlers Worldwide

November 18, 2019

4 min read

As a result of the recent rocket barrage from Gaza, Yekutiel (Mike) Ben Yakov, director and founder of the Israel Dog Unit, issued a worldwide call for those with experience handling dogs during search and rescue missions to come to Israel.

“We’re trying to put together as many dog handlers as possible that have the professional skills to help, in the event that we are pulled in to look for missing people trapped under collapsed buildings, as a result of the rocket attacks on Israel,” he said in a recent video appeal.

Yekutiel (Mike) Ben Yakov works on search and rescue with a trainer from Belgium (courtesy: Facebook אהרון שטרייכר)

Ben Yakov informed prospective volunteers that, “We have facilities in our base in Kfar Tapuach to house any of you that want to come to Israel from abroad to show your solidarity with Israel, and to be available in the event that we need you to help rescue people under rubble, God-forbid.”

Ben Yakov and his team are prepared to offer refresher training to volunteers if necessary, “to enable rapid and more effective deployment.”

The Israel Dog Unit is a non-profit organization in Israel that works in conjunction with the Israeli Police and Fire Department as well as with the Israel Defense Forces. It is Israel’s only organization that specializes in training dogs to protect communities and also to participate in search and rescue missions.

In four kennels throughout Israel, the IDU currently has 93 fully-trained and working dogs.

Search and Rescue

Whenever a person goes missing in Israel, regardless of whether it’s due to a terrorist incident or a natural disaster, the Israel Dog Unit is called in to help locate the missing person. In its two decades of operation, the IDU has helped locate Alzheimer patients, injured hikers or hikers who got separated from the rest of their party and missing children. The IDU has also located people who were trapped amidst rubble after a rocket attack, gas explosion or earthquake.

The trained canines and their handlers have, according to Ben Yakov, “been involved in more than 900 incidences where we’ve searched for missing people. We have saved dozens of lives and of course, in many cases recovered remains, mostly cases of missing people. We’re the number one outfit in Israel searching for missing people.”

One of the IDU’s Search and Rescue dogs poses in front of their mobile headquarters (courtesy: Facebook אהרון שטרייכר)

The unit is almost always successful. There are only three missing person cases that remain unresolved.


In addition to conducting search and rescue missions, the unit is, according to Ben Yakov, “also very active in the security arena.” Hundreds of security dogs have been trained to patrol and protect communities and individual families in Judea and Samaria from terrorist infiltrations. Farmers in the north and south of Israel have also benefited from the protection of the IDU’s canines against harassment and outright theft from hostile Arab and Bedouin neighbors.


IDU conducts regular training sessions with volunteers in which they simulate the outcome of a rocket attack or an earthquake. Volunteers are trained to cooperate with the dogs to locate missing people under rubble. The dog training begins during the puppy stage and continues as they develop into adult dogs, ready to be of service.

Over the past year, the unit held 150 days of training. Thirty-five days were devoted to seminars for experts from outside of Israel.

Dog handling education is also offered as part of the Liel pre-military academy in the Jordan Valley, where teenage students can become certified in canine search and rescue.

In addition, the IDU provides housing and support before, during and after their service for lone soldiers who volunteer with the unit. Lone Soldiers are those who serve in the Israel Defense Forces who do not have immediate family in Israel to support them.

More About The Call For Volunteers
Although the Israel Dog Unit specializes in working with service dogs, they also employ drones. In their current recruitment efforts, they are especially interested in hearing from people with expertise and knowledge in dog handling or drone operation, but Ben Yakov emphasized that, “anybody can come to Israel with any skill that they may have. If they have an interest in helping, we will find something for them to do.

“And whenever they can come here, they can show solidarity with Israel and be of help. We’ve got plenty to do, even if we’re not looking for bodies or to rescue people under the rubble. There’s a lot of training to do and a lot of other things to help ready us for future situations that can erupt at anytime,” he concluded.
Visit to learn more or email​ to volunteer.

To contact the IDU, click here.

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