January 17, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

Picture courtesy of ZAKA.

After working round-the-clock for 38 hours, yesterday Israel’s ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation in Haiti, working with the Mexican military delegation and Jewish volunteers from Mexico rescued eight students trapped under the rubble of the collapsed eight-storey Port-Au-Prince University building.

The six-man ZAKA delegation had arrived in Haiti aboard a Mexican air force Hercules, immediately after completing its work in recovery and identification of bodies and body parts following the Mexico City helicopter crash in which Jewish businessman and philanthropist Moises Saba and three members of his family were killed.

Head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation Mati Goldstein sent an e-mail to ZAKA’s Jerusalem headquarters in which he writes of the “Shabbat from hell. Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. 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.”

Amid the stench and chaos, the ZAKA delegation took time out to recite Shabbat prayers. In a surreal sight, the ultra-orthodox Jewish men stood wrapped in prayer shawls on the collapsed buildings. Locals sat quietly in the rubble, staring at the men as they prayed facing Jerusalem. When they finished praying, the Haitians crowded around the delegation, kissing their prayer shawls.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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