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November 15, 2002 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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This Week



Grim Tasks

Jerusalem bombing scene volunteer does the job
that few can stomach.




abbi Yaakov Uri might own
a Jerusalem pizza shop, but
when his beeper goes off, it's
the tragic side of his life that

Once the ambulances come, ZAKA
can move on to the grim task at hand.
Two weeks after ZAKA members
equipped their first scooter, a woman
bomber detonated a large bomb filled
with kilos of explosives in a Machne
Yehuda shoe shop. Windows were bro-
ken on both sides of the street and 127
people were injured. ZAKA treated the
injured and paramedics said three lives
were saved.

is calling.
The rabbi is a member of ZAKA, the
group of mostly Orthodox men who
collect body parts for burial of Jews
who have died in terrorist attacks and
other violent tragedies. The group's
name derives from a Hebrew
acronym for "Identification of
Victims of Disaster."
A long graying beard and black
kippah frames the 56-year-old rabbi's
somber face. He may dress in the tra-
ditional black suit, but his volunteer
work is far from traditional.
Married with six children, he led a
quiet life filled with prayer and hard
work until the day a car exploded in
Rabbi Yaakov Uri
front of him in Jerusalem's Machne
Yehuda market five years ago.
Rabbi Uri also possesses photo
"I stood there like an idiot because I
filled with thank-you letters
didn't know what to do," he said. "I saw
from government officials like Prime
people from ZAKA arriving and work-
Minister Ariel Sharon. He has photo-
ing, and I told myself that I needed to
graphs that people would rather not
do this, too."
look at.
Rabbi Uri can't count how often his
Some 700 people, mostly Orthodox
beeper has gone off since he became a
Jews, go through rigorous training to
member four years ago, and he has
don the yellow vest seen at every terror-
worked at countless bombing sites. He
visited the Detroit area Oct. 24-28 on a ist site in the past seven years. This job
isn't for everyone, the rabbi said, and
tour to raise money for the innovative
way his group helps victims of terrorism not all ZAKA members are Orthodox
Jews, but it helps.
and violence — a way that stems from
"It's not easy to do this," he said. "I'm
his 25-year career selling pizza.
not making any assumptions, and I'm
In Israel, motor scooters equipped
not saying that if you're not religious,
with a large box on the back zip
you can't do this, but the fact is that the
through bumper-to-bumper traffic to
deliver hot pizza. "If a pizza isn't hot, it's very religious have a way of life."
According to Halachah (Jewish law),
no longer a pizza — it's bread and
you have to bring to burial every bit of
cheese," said Rabbi Uri.
a person," he said. "We believe that
He became frustrated that many
every single piece of the victim is like
times he beat ambulances to the scene,
the whole victim."
and was unable to tend to the injured.
He recalls a scene after a terrorist
After a discussion with other ZAKA
bombing in Jerusalem last year.
members, they decided to get proper
"I saw one of our volunteers running
training and then equip motor scooters
out into the street with the head of a
with first aid equipment to save lives.
little girl with long blonde hair," he said
"The idea is to save them while the
matter-of-factly. "He's running with the
ambulances are coming," he said.





head, and the ambulance was taking the
girl's body away."
"Who will that volunteer share that
story with," he asked. "His wife?"
ZAKA has bridged the divide
between the religious and the non-reli-
When an Israeli merchant sitting
with some Arab friends was ambushed
in the West Bank by a terrorist, Rabbi
Uri and some other ZAKA members
donned bulletproof vests to retrieve the
"We knew he wasn't religious at all,
but still a Jew is a Jew," he said. "This is
the way ZAKA works."
When a person first comes to volun-
teer for ZAKA, they send him for a few
weeks to watch a mortician.
"Most people come back after the
first day and say this isn't my cup of
tea," said Rabbi Uri. 'And those
bodies are cold."
If a volunteer lasts through the
first round, he is developed very
First is a three-month army class
for body identification.
"It's very hard to match body
parts," he said. 'After a bomb, the
pieces are flung all over — on roofs,
trees, and you have to put them
together like a puzzle."
Two-hundred hours of medical and
first-aid training from the government
is the usual next step, resulting in 90
percent group certification.
Training goes slowly for six months
to a year, then you get the beeper con-
nected to Magen David Adorn, Israel's
medical service arm, and the police
radio system.
Although the Israeli government does
the training, it doesn't pick up the tab
for the motorbikes — they now have
45 — or the $50,000 spent annually on
the much-needed group therapy.
Lately, the police have requested
someone religious to inform families of
victims, so ZAKA volunteered, Rabbi
Uri said.
He doesn't hold much hope for the
future, but he knows what he wants to
see. "I want the organization to go out
of business," he said, finally cracking a

Contributions can be sent to
ZAKA Rescue and Recovery, 500
- 8th Ave., Suite 905, New York,
N.Y. 10018; call (212) 868-
2960, ext. 140.

When • •

From the pages of the Jewish News for
this week 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60
years ago.


The Holocaust and War Victims
Tracing Service and the American
Red Cross have initiated a program
to help visually impaired and other
handicapped individuals find infor-
mation about family who perished
in the Holocaust.

1982 '"wwwww "111011111111111

Detroiters Mr. and Mrs. Jacob
Nosanchuk, who came to the U. S.
in 1913 from Rublia in Byelorussia
celebrate their 75th wedding
Detroiter Sheldon Winkelman is
re-elected president of Jewish
Federation Apartments.

Miriam Goldstein is presented with
the Betty Pelavin Memorial Young
Leadership award as the outstand-
ing young leader of the Flint Jewish

Local congregations Beth Shalom
and B'nai Moshe announce their
formal affiliation with United
Synagogues of America.

Detroit Mizrachi is honored at the
Mizrachi Organization of America's
national convention in New York as
a leader in selling Israel Bonds.
The Detroit Urban League
announces the establishment of the
$10,000 Butzel-Stevens Scholarship
Fund to assist worthy college students.

The Jewish Agency for Palestine
enlists 47,000 Palestinians in the
all-Jewish Palestine Buffs Regiment,
supported by United Palestine
Appeal, which receives financial
support from the Allied Jewish
Campaign of Detroit.
Detroit's Young Israel celebrates its
20th anniversary, although 15 per-
cent of its adult male membership is
now serving in the armed forces.

— Compiled by Holly Teasdle,
archivist, the Leo M Franklin
Archives, Temple Beth El

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