Guatemala was devastated by a disastrous volcano eruption in June, which killed scores and displaced thousands, prompting Rabbi Yosef Garmon, ZAKA Commander in Guatemala and rabbi of the country’s Jewish community, to initiate an alliance of international organizations to help finance and build a new neighborhood of 100 units in order to provide homes for the evacuees. 

The volunteer-based ZAKA (the Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victim Identification), established in 1995, is an Israeli non-governmental lifesaving, rescue and recovery organization with branches in several countries around the world.

The ZAKA volunteers, together with members of other international groups, raised the necessary funds and then helped in the actual construction of the neighborhood, located some 90 minutes from Guatemala City and close to the area most affected by the disaster.

Dozens of the homes have been completed and families have already begun moving into the neighborhood.

As a practical expression of appreciation for the many years of true friendship between Guatemala and Israel and the recent move of the Guatemala Embassy to Jerusalem, it was decided to name the new neighborhood “The Jerusalem neighborhood.” 

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who visited the site last week, said “it was amazing to see dozens of volunteers from the ZAKA Guatemala Unit, which was established only a few months ago, working on the physical construction of the apartments for the very same people they had helped locate and rescue in the aftermath of the volcano.”

“This shows the beautiful face of Israel. It was very moving to see the ZAKA yellow vests spreading light and hope for the people of Guatemala,” he noted.

The ZAKA Guatemala unit was established in February when 45 volunteers from the local Jewish community and representatives from the local emergency services underwent an intensive ZAKA training course in search and rescue. 

Only a few months later, the ZAKA Guatemala unit members implemented their training, helping the local emergency forces locate, rescue and recover survivors and victims of the disaster.

Written by: United with Israel Staff
Feature image: ZAKA volunteers
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