What’s being called the greatest ecological disaster Israel has ever seen, a major tar spill off the Meditteranean coast last month has been plaguing Israel’s beaches. ZAKA, an international humanitarian organization, who usually deals with collecting body parts, is now helping the effort by diving where no man has dived before.
Together with the Environmental Protection Authority, ZAKA has begun a joint mission to survey soil off the coast of Israel’s northern shores to locate tar deposits.
Haim Otmezgin, commander of the special units at the ZAKA said: “In the mission, the unit’s divers plan to scan hundreds of meters of land deep in the sea where rock reefs are located that can accumulate tar deposits from environmental pollutants, using underwater photography technologies available to the unit.”
The ZAKA Divers Unit is a highly qualified team, equipped with various levels of diving equipment. They are capable of providing immediate response to search and rescue emergencies anywhere in Israel anytime. The ZAKA Divers Unit comprises hundreds of professional (and mostly secular) divers. Men, women, ex-Navy commandos, doctors, lawyers, and business people regularly train together to make sure that they can operate at the highest level at all times.
The idea for establishing the Divers Unit was born out of a real need identified by the ZAKA Rescue Unit commanders. It was during the search for the late Moshe Caniel, who drowned off the coast of Tel Aviv in 2005, that hundreds of volunteers combed the coastline while helicopters hovered above – only to realize that they were unable to reach the depths of the sea due to lack of the appropriately qualified personnel. ZAKA, quick to learn from this incident, established a Divers Unit in the name of Caniel, 30 days after his body was recovered.