ZAKA Guatemala

For from Zion shall come forth…Search and Rescue methods! An Israeli rescue organization is training emergency organizations in Guatemala.

By: United with Israel Staff

ZAKA, an Israeli volunteer search, rescue and recovery organization, has completed a three-day search and rescue training course in Guatemala.

Some 45 volunteers from different local community and emergency organizations came together to participate in the unique International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) course.

INSARAG is a global network of more than 80 countries and organizations under the United Nations umbrella. INSARAG deals with urban search and rescue (USAR)-related issues, aiming to establish minimum international standards for USAR teams and methodology for international coordination in earthquake response

ZAKA is a UN-recognized organization that has amassed over two decades of experience in mass casualties, especially in dealing with the aftermath of terrorism in Israel.

Ensuring Optimal Rescue Abilities

The course was provided in order to ensure that the Guatemalan volunteers have the necessary skills to offer immediate, real-time assistance to the emergency forces in their own community or region in the event of a mass casualty incident.

Experience that ZAKA has gained, including during the Nepal and Haiti earthquakes, has shown that this training can save lives and greatly increase the efficiency of the emergency response, even before international aid arrives.

“Light search and rescue is going to make a big difference in the next disaster, with trained locals working in the rubble to try to find people and save lives” explained ZAKA International Rescue Unit Chief Officer Mati Goldstein.

“ZAKA is here in Guatemala and around the world to make sure that in the next disaster we will have more and more people saving lives, going under the rubble, taking care of the remains of the people that were killed,” he added.

The initiative to train a ZAKA International Rescue Unit in Guatamala was led jointly by the Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities in Guatemala, the Israeli ambassador and the Guatemala Rabbi Yosef Garmon, who connected ZAKA to the relevant local emergency and rescue forces.

At a meeting in his office with the ZAKA delegation, Guatemala’s Chief of Staff Erick Servando Cano Zamora thanked ZAKA for its “praiseworthy initiative.” Cano Zamora expressed his willingness to cooperate in the long-term with ZAKA, noting that, in his opinion, the ZAKA strategy of training local volunteers to work together with the emergency forces in times of crisis is indeed correct.

An Act of Israeli Gratitude

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav presented the Chief of Staff with a ZAKA medal, adding that ZAKA’s presence in Guatemala is an act of gratitude for the country’s long-time support of Israel.

Guatemala was the second country to vote for the establishment of the state in 1948 and the first country to announce that its embassy will move to Jerusalem, following the recent announcement by President Donald Trump.

ZAKA delegation members also met with the Mayor of Guatemala City Alvaro Arzu, together with members of the Guatemala emergency forces. It was agreed that a joint working team would be established to prepare a detailed work plan on training and emergency preparedness.

Arzu presented Meshi-Zahav with the city medal, and promised ZAKA an open door to his office.

In addition, ZAKA met with army officers, fire-fighters, heads of local authorities, members of parliament and community leaders as well as members of the local Evangelical communities.

Rabbi Garmon, who initiated and arranged ZAKA’s visit to Guatemala, commented on the fact that ZAKA’s training in Guatemala brought both Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) and honor and esteem to the State of Israel.

“You have to see the way in which the local media sings the praises of ZAKA and its activities, which only serves to strengthen and deepen the warm connection between Guatemala and the State of Israel.”

ZAKA (the Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victim Identification), established in 1995, is an Israeli non-governmental lifesaving, rescue and recovery unit, a volunteer-based organization with about 1,500 members.

ZAKA has an international division which cooperates with law enforcement, military, and emergency services across the globe. They participated in rescue missions after the tsunami in Thailand, the Columbia shuttle crash, Hurricane Katrina, and many other such disasters. ZAKA specializes in disaster victim identification.

With files from ZAKA



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