ZAKA in Jerusalem Yesterday, A First Hand Account

Many of you know me as an owner of Mike's Place in Jerusalem, or someone who volunteers his time running the Mayanot Shul. But I too am a volunteer in ZAKA, not only a volunteer but a proud Officer.

Today, as terror hit the streets of Jerusalem in two separate, almost simultaneous attacks, I jumped out of bed to help in the streets. I exchanged my pajamas for my ZAKA T-shirt and a yellow vest. First, I arrived at the site of the car ramming and stabbing attack in Malchei Yisrael Street in which one Israeli was killed and several others wounded. But there were already many ZAKA volunteers working on the site and help was needed at the Armon Hanatziv site.

I jumped into the ZAKA ambulance, taking a few members with me and start to drive towards Amon Hanatziv. I felt a sense of horror and déjà vu as we approached the area and saw a bus with fellow ZAKA volunteers, on their hands and knees, clearing human remains and blood from the bus and the sidewalk. These scenes are seared in my memory from the horror of past terror attacks.

I immediately joined them. We worked quietly, blocking out the noise and mayhem of the helicopters, the sirens, the screams, the frustration and the anger that surrounded us. We wiped away the blood. We collected the human remains. Our mission - to ensure a full Jewish burial for the victim, to deal with the terror aftermath in the most dignified manner possible, to honor the dead and to respect the living.

These are the words and slogans I use in my presentations about ZAKA that I give to English speakers around the world. Today, as I worked with these dedicated ZAKA volunteers who are exposed to this level of trauma and tragedy on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, I realized once again how very special these people are. How honored I am to work with them.

I am still deeply affected by what I saw and did today. I have returned to my bar/restaurant. Together with my ZAKA colleagues, I await the next emergency call. Sadly, it will come. And ZAKA will be there.

Later in the evening I head back to the scene on Malchei Yisrael Street, to light a candle and I'm met by my other ZAKA colleagues where we break out in song and prayer. There are no words to express our feelings, this is a way of therapy for us, a way of coping with crisis, supporting each other. what was even more moving and amazing, was to see the community come out and join to support us.

With hope,
Yossi Fraenkel