Jewish Rescue Group Builds Interfaith Cooperation

ZAKA, an Israeli medical and rescue organization of ultra-Orthodox Jews, initiates program to work with Muslim, Christian counterparts.

Leaders of ZAKA, an Israeli medical and rescue organization best known for its work in the aftermath of suicide bombings, has launched a program that seeks to work with Muslim and Christian counterparts on emergency rescues.

ZAKA - who signed a declaration of its interfaith program on January 4 in Zichron Yaakov - reasons that because man is created in God’s image, people of all religions are obliged to “respect each and every person as he is, and to educate and transmit values and messages of peace.” On a practical level, this means that ZAKA will increase minority involvement — with outreach programs like a first aid course for Arab women — and increase the number of volunteers from Israel’s non-Jewish communities.

Haifa plane crash

ZAKA’s chairman, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who himself was once a leader in the anti-Zionist fringes of the Haredi world, told the Forward that this new initiative represents a more sustainable form of interfaith relations than dialogue. “Every dialogue without actual action doesn’t have a future,” he said. Greek Melkite priest Touma Haddad, a signatory to the declaration, commented, “Sometimes talking is just not enough.”

With its new declaration, ZAKA resolves to capitalize on the interfaith aspect of its work and “have ZAKA volunteers as opinion formers within their communities, working to encourage co-existence, helping and assisting others and instilling values of peace and co-existence.”

Read more at the Forward.