Against the background of increasing anti-Semitic attacks in France and the ever-growing threat of Islamic terrorism in Europe, ZAKA has recently expanded its activities in France.
During a recent visit to Paris, ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav met with Joel Mergui, president of the Consistoire Central, the body responsible for religious affairs in the French Jewish community. Also present were the head of ZAKA France and the Hevere Kadisha Zemach Ben Naim, Chief Officer ZAKA International Rescue Unit Mati Goldstein, Eliyahu Tuboul and Baruch Nidam from ZAKA France.
The community leaders discussed ways of increasing cooperation with ZAKA. Under the sponsorship of the Consistoire, additional ZAKA units are to be established throughout France in addition to the existing unit. ZAKA will also hold training days with community leaders in halachic and professional issues relating to honoring the dead (kavod hamet).
In a meeting with the Israeli consul in France Uri David, the difficulties that sometimes arise with the French authorities in issues related to repatriating bodies to Israel were discussed. Over 500 bodies are repatriated for burial in Israel from France every year.
Of particular concern is a directive by IATA, the trade association of the world’s airlines, that requires bodies being flown for burial to be injected with a particular substance, which requires removing all the blood from the corpse, in contravention of Jewish law and a serious infringement on kavod hamet The blood could not be flown with the body, as there is a ban on transporting liquids on all flights.
Thanks to the strenuous efforts by Meshi-Zahav in meetings with the relevant authorities, IATA has now canceled this requirement. Israel Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has issued a document stating that Israel does not demand this requirement and, in this way, the honor of the dead has been preserved in accordance with Jewish law.