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UN committee grants ZAKA consultative status

Bid by Israeli emergency rescue service unanimously approved after three failed campaigns in previous years

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Emergency workers inspect the scene of a deadly crash in southern Israel on February 3, 2015 (Shalom Ben Tzur/Zaka Spokesperson)
Emergency workers inspect the scene of a deadly crash in southern Israel on February 3, 2015 (Shalom Ben Tzur/Zaka Spokesperson)

A UN committee on non-governmental organizations on Wednesday granted ZAKA, an Israeli emergency response and rescue service, official consultative status.

ZAKA’s bid to join the UN body was unanimously approved by a 19-member committee that includes Iran, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Sudan and Pakistan. Three previous attempts by Zaka to join the UN — in 2015, 2014 and 2013 — were unsuccessful.

The status at the UN gives the volunteer organization the right to take part in official UN discussions and conferences that are open for such organizations.

The effort was backed by the Israeli and American ambassadors to the UN, Danny Danon and Samantha Power.

Chairman of ZAKA, Israel’s voluntary emergency response organization, Yehuda Meshi Zahav (ZAKA/Lydia Weitzman Communications)
Chairman of ZAKA, Israel’s voluntary emergency response organization, Yehuda Meshi Zahav (ZAKA/Lydia Weitzman Communications)

Danon called ZAKA’s new status “a significant victory for Israeli diplomacy.”

“ZAKA is an organization that reflects Israel’s moral values and its acceptance by the UN represents conclusive proof to the world of this fact. ZAKA received the status it deserves,” he said.

ZAKA founder and chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav praised the move, calling it a “great honor for the State of Israel in general and the ZAKA organization and its volunteers in particular that the UN recognizes and appreciates the unique sacred mission that we do, regardless of religion, race or creed.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely also hailed the successful diplomatic effort, calling ZAKA “an important organization that does holy work every day of the year, and a group like this should certainly be part of an international body such as the UN.”

Mati Goldstein, head of ZAKA’s international rescue unit, said the new UN status would allow the organization “to continue our sacred work around the world.”

Last year, the same UN committee granted consultative status to the Palestinian Return Center, a UK-based advocacy group allegedly linked to Hamas, drawing the ire of Israeli officials. Israel’s then UN ambassador Ron Prosor called approving the PRC “the height of the ‘theater of the absurd’ at the United Nations.”

ZAKA volunteers are often on the scene of terror attacks and deadly road accidents, collecting body parts and blood for Jewish burials according to Jewish law. The group also provides first aid and search and rescue services.

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