Jewish rescue crew saves eight Haitian students

Jewish rescue crew saves eight Haitian students

A rescue crew of Israeli and Mexican Jews pulled eight Haitian students from the rubble of their collapsed university building this weekend as Jewish efforts on behalf of this earthquake ravaged country continue.

In what its team leader called the “Shabbat from Hell,” a six-man crew from ZAKA International (four Israelis and two Mexicans), dispatched to a collapsed eight-story university building upon its arrival in Haiti, heard cries from the trapped students, according to a statement from the relief organization.

After hours of work with rescue equipment provided by the Mexican military, the ZAKA volunteers pulled the eight students alive from the rubble, 38 hours after the building collapsed in last week’s earthquake.

In an email to ZAKA headquarters in Jerusalem, Mati Goldstein, head of the ZAKA unit on the ground in Haiti wrote of the “Shabbat from hell.”

ZAKA, a Hebrew acronym for “Disaster Victim Identification,” is an Israel-based volunteer emergency response team. It was founded in 1989 to recover human remains from terrorist attacks.

“Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air.” Goldstein continued. “It’s just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust — thousands of bodies everywhere. You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension.”

The Jewish world continues to mobilize to support the people of Haiti following the earthquake Tuesday, Jan. 12, that virtually destroyed the capital, Port au Prince, and much of the country.

The Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia reported that
a 220-person delegation, headed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, left Thursday evening, Jan. 14, for Port-au-Prince. The relief package includes a Home Front Command field hospital and rescue unit, as well as teams from Magen David Adom and Israel Police.

A delegation of the Israel-based ZAKA International Rescue Unit, which was in Mexico assisting in the recovery efforts following the helicopter crash on Sunday, flew to the Haiti in a Mexican air force Hercules together with the Mexican official aid delegation.

The American Jewish World Service is collecting donations in response to earthquake in Haiti, which registered a 7.3 on the Richter scale. Donations to AJWS’s “Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund,” can be made at

And the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh is opening an emergency mailbox to accept donations that will provide immediate aid and relief to the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday.

All donations sent to the UJF will be forwarded to the Federation’s overseas service provider, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), who will be directly involved in relief efforts on Haiti. In addition, the UJF’s national organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, is coordinating with The Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, which brings together the experience, expertise, and additional resources of North American Jewish organizations to assist victims of natural or man-made disasters on a non-sectarian basis.

The coalition, managed by JDC, consists of organizations such as the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, American Jewish World Service and American Jewish Committee, to name a few. The coalition’s work maximizes the resources, coordinates the activities of its member agencies, informs the public about the disaster situation and the Jewish response, and demonstrates the long tradition of Jewish humanitarianism during times of crisis.

Contributions can be made online at or by sending a check, made payable to UJF/Haitian Relief Fund, 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

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