ZAKA volunteers return to site of Meron disaster for psychological counseling and emotional support.

May 9, 2021 by Lydia Weitzman

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Almost a week after the disaster at Mount Meron in which 45 people lost their lives, dozens of ZAKA Search and Rescue volunteers and paramedics returned to the scene of the disaster, for psychological and emotional counselling, to grieve together and for a memorial service in honour of the victims.

The debrief and counselling were administered by psychologists and other mental health professionals to help the volunteers process and deal with the trauma and tragedy they had witnessed.

The ZAKA volunteers, who had witnessed the transformation from joy and song to terror and tragedy within such a short time, administered CPR to the injured and cared for the dead, were divided into small groups. Here, in the very place where they experienced their trauma, they were encouraged to speak about the tragedy and its aftermath with professionals and psychologists who helped them with the tools they need to return to life and routine.

Participating in the event, among others, was ZAKA Northern District Commander and Chief of Police for the Coastal and North District, Rabbi Anshel Friedman, ZAKA Chief Officer Zohar Dvir, ZAKA CEO Dubi Weissenstern and ZAKA Commander, Special Units Chaim Weingarten, alongside dozens of ZAKA volunteers who had been working through the night at the site of the disaster.

During the evening, the volunteers were presented with 45 ZAKA emergency medical kits, each one named in memory of one of the 45 victims of the disaster.

ZAKA Chief Officer Zohar Dvir, who had previously served as Commander of the Northern District in the Israel Police: “For three years, I had been in charge of the Lag Ba’Omer events on Mount Meron for 3 years, then I prayed that we would be able to get through the event without any disasters. This year, as Chief Officer with ZAKA, I was with you on the ground, I watched you from up close, saw how you worked, like angels, with such sensitivity despite the horrific scenes, alongside the emergency and rescue forces.”

ZAKA CEO Dubi Weissenstern: “This was a very difficult disaster, nothing could have prepared us. I wish to commend the volunteers for their hard work and dedication in such a complex event. Once again, you have proved yourselves as you treated the dead and cared for the families with such sensitivity. It is essential that all volunteers undergo this debriefing, led by professionals because no one can say after such a traumatic event ‘it didn’t affect me’.”

At the end of the event, the volunteers stood together, linking arms and swaying together in song and prayer. The volunteers left the site, with renewed strength, and with the hope that they would no longer have to deal with these difficult cases.

Magen David Adom Australia reports that ambulances donated by Australian supporters had been used by the support crews who attended the tragedy.

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