Just days after losing his mother to COVID-19, the chairman of the ultra-Orthodox emergency response organization, ZAKA, has lost his father to the disease as well on Sunday.
Yehuda Meshi Zahav, chairman and co-founder of the voluntary community emergency response organization, has witnessed the pain of countless bereaved families who have lost their loved ones, but it did not prepare him for losing both his parents in less than a week.
While Meshi Zahav and his family were still mourning the passing of his mother, 80-year-old Sara Zeisel – who succumbed to the illness after a month-long battle, his 83-year-old father, Menachem Mendel, who had also contracted coronavirus, collapsed over the weekend and later passed away.
Meshi Zahav also lost his 59-year-old brother that same month after a long battle with a disease, just two days after their mother was hospitalized. The family kept the news from her for several days.
"I live the grief and the agony, I've heard of so many stories, but it wasn't enough probably. Like showing a painting of a beautiful landscape to a blind person, he wouldn't understand what you're talking about," Meshi Zahav told the Ynet studio in an interview. "I guess the Lord wanted me to feel more, on my own flesh, so next time I'm sat in front of a bereaved family, I'll understand the pain and the heartache they're talking about. Now, I'll have a better idea what they're talking about."
In tears, Meshi Zahav described his life in the passing month as a "horror film" and a "never-ending tunnel that only becomes longer as you come near the light at the end of it."
He admitted that both his apparently contracted the virus while attending an event that celebrated the holiday of Hanukah that was held in defiance of health regulations.
"They both probably contracted coronavirus together, although dad exhibited milder symptoms," Meshi Zahav said. "Doctors said that his passing was most likely the result of COVID exacerbating other conditions."
Against the backdrop of ultra-Orthodox leaders calling to reopen educational institutions and protesters in Bnei Brak rioting in protest of coronavirus measures, the long-time first responder struggled to understand what he deemed as disregard of human life.
"It’s not like people disregard their own life, but the lives of others," he said. "Isn't it clear that everyone that contracts it may die? People don't understand what this is all about."
Meshi Zahav had also criticized ultra-Orthodox leaders last week after his mother's passing, calling those who try to play down the pandemic, "worse than Holocaust deniers."
"This is our leaders' fault. I say this with heavy heart, I think they're worse than Holocaust deniers. After all, Holocaust deniers deny history, and here, they're denying the present," Meshi Zahav told the Ynet studio in an interview.