After Haaretz Report, Israeli Police Launch Formal Sexual Assault Investigation Against Zaka Founder

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Yehuda Meshi-Zahav appearing as a guest on Israeli Channel 12's Most Influential panel, earlier this month
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav appearing as a guest on Israeli Channel 12's Most Influential panel, earlier this monthCredit: Gil Cohen Magen

The police announced on Sunday that they will open a formal investigation into Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the founder of the Zaka rescue organization, for alleged sexual offenses, following accusations of sexual assault and exploitation of women, men, and children.

On Thursday, a Haaretz report revealed the sexual assault allegations against Meshi-Zahav. On Friday, in the wake of the report, Meshi-Zahav announced he is relinquishing his prize and stepping down from his role at the organization.

The Israel Police announced Friday that they had opened a probe into the claims against Meshi-Zahav, and will be specifically investigating claims of rape, indecent acts, and soliciting prostitution. 

The investigation will be carried out by Israel Police's Lahav 433 unit. In 2013, a different investigation was carried out against Meshi-Zahav following similar allegations, but the case was closed due to lack of evidence. 

Investigators are expected to speak to the women who testified in the 2013 case, and will be checking whether the women have new information regarding Meshi-Zahav's conduct at the time. 

The investigation published in Haaretz provided evidence of assault and sexual exploitation by Meshi-Zahav going back to the 1980s. Six accusers told Haaretz that Meshi-Zahav took advantage of his status, power, money and even the organization he heads to assault  teenagers and younger children, both boys and girls, without regard to the ages, gender or maritial status of his victims. According to the investigation, many around Meshi-Zahav reportedly knew about his actions, but did not tell anyone or report him to the police.

Meshi-Zahav denied all allegations brought against him in a lengthy response to Haaretz's request for comment ahead of the publication of the investigation. "Publication of this article is an attempt to settle accounts with me and, regrettably, to destroy me as well."

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