ZAKA volunteers mourn crash victim colleague

By Jennifer Lipman, August 6, 2010

A member of Israel’s volunteer rescue service has been killed in a car accident along with six members of his family.

Aryeh Bernstein, 43, died after a train collided with a minibus in southern Israel. His wife, pregnant daughter, and four children were also killed when the minibus broke through a railroad barrier near Kiryat Gat.

The only survivors from the crash were the driver and Dudi Gotstein, Mr Bernstein’s son-in-law, who is recovering in hospital. Twenty others were injured.

Mr Bernstein was identified when ZAKA volunteers arrived at the scene and found his yellow ZAKA vest and hat.

The organisation sends people to help with rescue and victim identification in the wake of disasters including suicide bombings, traffic accidents and humanitarian crises such as the Haiti earthquake or the Asian tsunami.

ZAKA, which stands for disaster victim identification, is made up of mostly orthodox volunteers dedicated to ensuring that the deceased get proper burial.

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav described Mr Bernstein as “a very important veteran volunteer” and a “respected member of the ZAKA family”.

Fellow volunteer Motti Bukchin added: “We are not immune to pain, and on the scene I saw a couple of the volunteers standing to the side and shedding a tear for our friend.”

Last updated: 10:59am, August 6 2010