Zaka worker in Port au-Prince
Photo: Dano Monkotavitz
ZAKA mission to Haiti 'proudly desecrating Shabbat'
Religious rescue team holds Shabbat prayer with members of international missions in Port au-Prince

ZAKA, a rescue team made up of religious volunteers, has been working overtime in the quake-stricken Haitian capital of Port au-Prince. Late Friday night they found a few minutes to conduct Kabalat Shabbat.


"There was not really a Shabbat, but on Friday night we said Kiddush with delegations from Mexico, England, and Scotland," commander of the ZAKA mission to Haiti, Mati Goldstein, told Ynet.


"With all the hell going on outside, even when things get bad Judaism says we must take a deep breath and go on to save more people."


Goldstein said cooperation between the international teams, which had arrived from 30 different states, was strengthened by the Sabbath prayer. "We sat with Jordanian security guards, an Israeli team, and people from Qatar and Egypt. It was strange," he said.


The ZAKA team, comprised of just three people, has been working among the wreckage of a school in Port au-Prince.  

ZAKA volunteers wade through ruins (Photo: Dano Monkotavitz)


"On Friday we assisted with the rescue of eight people, and yesterday two more were saved," Goldstein recounted.


He added that despite his experience in aiding in disasters worldwide, the scene of the 7.0-magnitude quake was one of the worst he had observed. "I've been to Mumbai, and several other terror attacks, but it's really hellish here," he said.


Goldstein added that his team had continued to work throughout Shabbat. "We did everything to save lives, despite Shabbat. People asked, 'Why are you here? There are no Jews here', but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives… We are desecrating Shabbat with pride," he said.


The rescue worker said the teams were trying to keep morale high despite the carnage. "Yesterday the mood was grim among the teams and the locals, because we were digging and getting nowhere," he said.


"One of the mission members wanted to raise morale, and we started to sing. The search team was working, the families were standing on the side, and everyone was singing 'Heveinu Shalom Alechem' (Trans: We bring peace to you). I had tears in my eyes,"


The ZAKA team is scheduled to remain for an additional two days in order to assist the US team, but they are adamant to make their Israeli identity clear. "The people here see it as very important that the State of Israel has come to help," Goldstein said.


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