The management of the ZAKA Search and Rescue organization, its members and volunteers received with shock and astonishment the testimonies allegedly related to its chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav that were published Thursday by Haaretz.

The organization’s management has confidence in the official investigative authorities who will examine in the most professional way those matters that require investigation.

The organization, which has been volunteering for 32 years to identify victims of terror, road accidents and disasters in Israel and around the world, has become a symbol of unity and bringing people together. ZAKA’s yellow vests and white overalls connect between religious and secular, Israelis from all parts of the country who work together for one goal – chesed shel emet (ultimate lovingkindness)

ZAKA’s mission extends beyond any one individual or consideration, and the organization will continue to carry out its work for the benefit of the citizens of Israel, the Jewish people and anyone in need with dedication and loyalty.

Copied below is the text of a letter sent today (March 12, 2021) to ZAKA volunteers by Yehuda Meshi-Zahav:

“I am an 11th generation Jerusalemite, the great-grandson and grandson of those who broke through the walls of Jerusalem.” This is what I declared 18 years ago at the time when I was honored with lighting a torch at the official Israel Independence Day celebrations “for the glory of the State of Israel”. I did not stand there alone on Mount Herzl. Thousands of volunteers in the organization that I had the honor to establish and direct stood there with me, while the people of Israel applauded them. And even now I am not alone.

An entire organization that has broken down walls and built bridges, and has taught love and understanding between sectors and communities stands on its merit. And me, what am I? All in all, I am a faithful messenger of these volunteers, men and women, from different ethnic communities and religions, ZAKA volunteers, who carry out their sacred work and are so dear to me.

Out of concern for the holy organization that I built with my two hands and a deep recognition of its essential nature for the fabric of society in our country, I draw the obvious conclusion from this great storm, even when these stories are unfounded, gossip and the settling of scores against me.

Firstly, I need an enormous amount of mental strength for this struggle and look with anguish at the damage that may be caused as a result to this important organization, its activities and 4,000 dedicated volunteers.

As a first step, I request to relinquish the honor that has been bestowed upon me by the decision to award me the Israel Prize in a sign of recognition for the activities of the organization and for the activities of every single volunteer.

Secondly, the situation in which I find myself, requires me to take time out from my responsibilities as chairman until the cloud has been removed.”