International Rescue Unit
The Jerusalem-based ZAKA International Rescue Unit operates a specially trained team of volunteer paramedics and search and rescue professionals who are on call 24/7, ready to respond in the fastest possible time to major international mass casualty incidents, wherever they may occur. Under the direction of Chief Operations Officer Mati Goldstein, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit works in close cooperation with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the IDF and other government bodies.
ZAKA’s assistance at major international terror attacks (eg Mombasa, Istanbul and Taba) and natural disasters (eg the tsunami and the New Orleans Katrina hurricane) led the United Nations in 2005 to recognize ZAKA as an international volunteer humanitarian organization (one of only three Israeli organizations to hold this status).
This UN recognition enables ZAKA to offer emergency assistance even before the official delegation has left Israel, or the host country has formally asked for help or even when the country has no diplomatic ties with Israel (e.g. when ZAKA helped the recovery efforts following a plane crash in Namibia and subsequently trained the local forensic police).
In order to shorten the response time to international mass casualty incidents, ZAKA trains emergency response teams in local communities worldwide. To date, ZAKA has established trained and fully equipped organic ZAKA International Rescue Units in, among others, the United States (New York and Lakewood), England (London and Manchester), Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Siberia and Georgia. The volunteers participate in a five day basic training program that includes certification as emergency medical first responders; security preparedness and response; dealing with mass casualty incidents; honoring the dead; working with forensics and simulation emergency drills. These local teams provide a solution to their own communities, as well as offering on-the ground assistance to the Israel-based ZAKA International Rescue Unit volunteers in major international mass casualty incidents.
Recent missions for the ZAKA International Rescue Unit include:
- 2008 – Chabad House terror attack in Mumbai, India
- 2010 – earthquake in Haiti
- 2011 – tsunami and earthquake in Japan
- 2013 – Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
- 2015 – Paris terror attacks
- 2015 – Nepal earthquake
- 2018 – Guatemala Volcano Eruption
- 2018 – Pittsburg Synagogue Shooting
The ZAKA International Rescue Unit is held in high esteem by emergency forces around the world and is often called upon by international forces to provide assistance, consultation and offer advice.
In addition, the ZAKA International Rescue Unit regularly trains with the relevant IDF and Israeli emergency services, as well as international forces such as the biannual, multi-national training with the U.S. Military National Guard in Indiana.