When A Prank Becomes A Lesson in Brotherly Love…

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With Christmas upon us, and we are rushing about for those last minute gifts, how many have given thought to those who “have not”?.

When you walk down the street do you really look at those who are truly homeless, or do you avert your eyes? If you decide to give a few coins, do you quickly toss them and move on? Do you avoid giving because “you know” it will not be used wisely?

One youtuber, who is better known for posting pranks, thought he was filming just that. When he decided to give money to a homeless man, he was pretty sure of the outcome. For the sake of his “video” they followed the man and filmed him secretly to see what would happen. The young “prankster” was taught a beautiful lesson of brotherly love and humility by this homeless man who started out being the victim of a prank.

Do watch to the end, and next time you see a homeless person, take a moment to look at them as a brother, a fellow human. Granted, they do need money, but all people have a need to be seen as “people”. Please remember that they have feelings, hopes and dreams like the rest of us. Take a moment to let someone know that you “see” them. A kind word or a cup of coffee may not be much to you, but it can make a real difference to someone in need.

This is the real “Spirit of Christmas”

Our Israel~1: JNF Trees~Growing Strong

This is the first of a series of short films produced by Israel Vision that we will be posting on life in Israel. Our goal is to show the world what Israel really is. The media (often biased) is not able to show the reality. A reporter who flies in, stays in a hotel and meets a few people is unable to see below the surface. People in other countries, and sadly some who even live here, have no idea of the amazing things that  make Israel special. We hope over time that you will see the wonder that is Israel. 
Do let us know if you have a special topic or area of Israel you would like hear about.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is known for  planting trees in Israel. To date they have been responsible for over 240 Million trees across the country. Israel is the only country in the world whose forest are “increasing”

A Gift from the UK

Last week a terrorist planted a bomb at one of the busiest bus stops in Jerusalem. The resulting explosion injured many and killed one woman, Mary Jean Gardner. Originally from Scotland, she was a Bible Translator studying in Jerusalem. Immediately after the explosion ZAKA volunteers struggled to save her life, but ultimately Ms. Gardner died of her wounds despite paramedics’ efforts. British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gold praised ZAKA for its dedication to providing aid “regardless of religion, sex, race, or nationality.” ZAKA’s determination could serve as an example to the world. 

ZAKA representatives were invited to the Ambassador’s home for a modest ceremony in which he gave the organization a new device with the potential to save lives. The device, a small, technologically advanced underwater “scooter”, will help ZAKA’s diving unit reach drowning victims quickly, and search bodies of water more efficiently. The device also allows divers to move quickly without expending energy, thus allowing them to save their energy for resuscitation efforts.

Roi Rachamim of the diving unit demonstrated the use of the device in Gold’s backyard pool.

ZAKA was started by a group of hareidi-religious yeshiva students, volunteers, dedicated to gathering human remains from the grisly aftermath of terrorist bombings in order to allow for proper burial. This has developed into a large-scale volunteer organization that assists in search and rescue operations, disaster response, first aid, and the recovery and identification of body parts. Members of ZAKA go to disaster areas around the world to help in recovery and identification.

Chesed~An Act of Kindness

With all the horror taking place in the world one forgets to look for the good. So, here is the good story of the day.  In Israel,  Rami Levi is the owner of one of the country’s largest supermarket chains. He has joined in thousands of Israelis who are paying Shiva visits to the relatives of the Fogel family. But, he did not just give his condolences, he stocked the shelves of the kitchen. In his own words (he told the orphaned children, family and friends) 


You will have to get used to my face, Levi told the mourners and friends.  I have committed myself that every week I will deliver food and stock your home until the youngest orphan turns 18 years of age
 …Blessings to you Mr. Levy! 

ZAKA~Chesed Shel Emet (True Virtue)

David Rawlings & ZAKA Team

About a year ago Israel Vision.TV created a promotional video for ZAKA (a Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victims Identification). David Rawlings spent time following and filming ZAKA in action and interviewed some of their volunteers.  When the earthquake stuck in Haiti David was with the team at Ben Gurion airport as they prepared to leave. You can  watch these touching interviews on the Israel Vision.TV website. These amazing men speak of their experiences and the strength that it takes to carefully sift through every disaster to insure that no human remains–no matter how small–are left behind. There are also links you can follow to the ZAKA home page.

The following information was posted on Israel 21C by Abigail Klein Leichman on 21 December 2010. Do visit their excellent site for many other interesting reports about Israel.
ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, Founder of ZAKA

In a special Knesset gathering in November, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz presented an award to ZAKA Rescue and Recovery Organization founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav for raising awareness and promoting road safety. The moment was noteworthy not just because it acknowledged ZAKA’s role in responding to thousands of car accidents and encouraging safer driving, but also because it underlined the warm relationship between Israel’s secular officials and Meshi-Zahav, an ultra-Orthodox (haredi) former anti-Zionist agitator. Yehuda Meshi-Zahav evolved from an anti-Zionist firebrand in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood into the founder of ZAKA, a unique rescue and recovery organization.

Since founding ZAKA in 1995, the 51-year-old father of seven has gained a reputation as an international rescue authority and as one of Israel’s greatest champions of tolerance among both Jews and Arabs. His post-9/11 work in New York earned him an invitation to participate in a special commemoration on the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack, and he chose to take along Sheikh Akel Elatrash, commander of ZAKA’s Bedouin Unit in the Negev. “We slept in the same room, ate our meals together, and toured Manhattan together,” Meshi-Zahav tells ISRAEL21c. With one sporting a black velvet skullcap and long gray sidelocks and the other in traditional Arab robe and headdress, the two caused quite a stir. “People asked if we were part of a film,” he recalls. 

Though Meshi-Zahav’s life story could easily be mistaken for a screenplay, he is as real as the flesh and blood he encounters at the scenes of accidents, crimes and terrorist attacks. Brought up in the insular Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, he was ingrained to distrust “the other” and to disdain Zionism as evil.

Arrested 34 Times for Anti-Zionist Agitation

“The haredi community is set up with ‘walls’ to protect us from outside influences” Meshi-Zahav says, speaking in Hebrew translated by his foreign media spokeswoman, Lydia Weitzman, and ZAKA development director David Rose. “I never knew there were Jews who act and behave differently and that they are also good people.” The 11th generation Jerusalemite was taught that there was a correct and incorrect way to do things, “and if we did something the incorrect way, we were called Zionists.” This same man, who proudly lit the torch ushering in the State of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations in 2003, was arrested 34 times at anti-Zionist demonstrations as a youth.

At some point, the young Meshi-Zahav developed an affinity for the police who apprehended him time and again. “I began to see them as regular people who wanted to go home to their families after a day’s work,” he relates. “I started to see that a lot of things could be settled more easily by just sitting and talking to one another.”
With this revelation as a backdrop, on July 6, 1989 Meshi-Zahav heard the explosion and subsequent screams emanating from a bus driven into a ravine by a terrorist. He and some friends rushed to the scene, determined to help tend the wounded and collect scattered body parts and blood for burial.
Though his mother had set a volunteering example with her regular visits to terminally ill patients, Meshi-Zahav knew neither first aid nor forensics. But he knew Jewish laws regarding human remains, and he discovered that no organization in Israel was authorized to do this gruesome but sacred work.

Free Access to Palestinian hospitals

His life took on a new purpose: “Even though we Israelis have different opinions about how the state should be, the time had come to live together.” Over the next six years, he lay the groundwork for ZAKA–the only group of its kind worldwide, it is recognized by the United Nations as an international volunteer humanitarian organization. Donations make up most of its funding; about 10 percent of the budget comes from the government.
ZAKA in Haiti

During the Arab uprising or intifada from 2000 to 2006, Meshi-Zahav and about 600 volunteers rarely slept, constantly on alert for the next call. Working knee-deep in blood, Meshi-Zahav was fortified by his faith. “At the time, I thought we were dealing with kavod hamet–honoring the dead. By the end, I realized that we were actually honoring the living, because a family whose loved one cannot receive a full Jewish burial has no rest.”
ZAKA developed an avenue for transferring the remains of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority. “Our humanitarian message is the key that allows us to open doors to all communities,” Meshi-Zahav says. “Even during [those years], we were going into Palestinian hospitals when we needed to.”
ZAKA in Haiti

Today, some 1,500 Jewish, Muslim and Druze ZAKA volunteers carry out lifesaving, rescue and recovery operations in Israel and around the world, garnering numerous awards including a citation from New York City for assistance following 9/11. The organization was one of those from Israel that was active in Haiti after the earthquake. Awareness of ZAKA’s mission has grown in Israel and abroad.

I have no strikes or vacations

“Before ZAKA, if there was a traffic accident in Israel, paramedics would take care of the injured and a private ambulance would come to take the dead…but if there were body parts, nobody collected them,” says Meshi-Zahav. “The firemen would wash down all the blood and that was the end of it. Now it is in the Israeli consciousness to call us instead.”
ZAKA has also changed attitudes in the haredi community, now one of its largest pools of volunteers. In the early years, Meshi-Zahav’s children were derided at school for their father’s close cooperation with official Israeli agencies. But even when the social pressure eased, the time pressure did not. Calls come day and night from ZAKA’s hotline or from the army, emergency services, police, firefighters, Homefront Command or foreign governments.
“My typical day’s schedule is not fixed by me, but by the angel of death,” Meshi-Zahav says. “I have no strikes or vacations.”

ZAKA rescue scene
ZAKA at Burned Bus in Carmel Fire

The Carmel Forest fire earlier at the beginning of December was a case in point. ZAKA volunteers rappelled down a hill to reach the site of the burned bus carrying prison guards and sift through the charred wreckage to uncover all human remains before the victims were buried. Another team worked to identify the charred bodies. “The people of Israel owe you much gratitude for the holy work that you have been doing,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai told them. While awaiting better times with perfect faith, Meshi-Zahav remains dedicated to his twin missions of disaster response and bettering society. “In the same way that enemies don’t distinguish between different types of Jews, we too must be for everyone,” he says. “Our guiding principle is our belief that all men were made in the image of God.”