An unusual cooperation amidst Japanese catastrophe: An Israeli team of 12 ZAKA (Disaster Victim Identification) volunteers sent to Japan to help out with rescue efforts worked alongside an unlikely team on Sunday – the official Iranian delegation.
This strange joint effort took place in the city of Kamaishi, which was hit badly by the quake and tsunami. The ZAKA team arrived to assist locals rescue and identify bodies buried in the wreckage and to take note of the Japanese disaster incase a similar one was to happen in Israel.
“The Japanese welcomed us very nicely. They hug us wherever we go and thank us for Israeli aid,” said ZAKA Chairman and delegation head Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.
In Kamaishi, ZAKA volunteers were able to rescue seven bodies belonging to one family that was buried under the rubble. They also assisted in the identification of the dead. The Israeli team taught the locals to spot crows and explained that, from their experience, dead bodies can be found where crows hover.
The Teheran rescue team also arrived in the city. “We shook hands and became friends. At one point they set up a stand and wanted to hand out food and medicine to the locals. We joined in and there we stood, side by side, handing out food and medicine. They removed the Iranian flag and removed our Israeli flag and we just stood there together. It was very odd,” he added.
The Iranians told the ZAKA volunteers: “You know we are cousins. The wars and conflicts are between the leaders, but between the people there should be peace. We can’t forget we were close once.”
One difference between Israel and Iran is that the Israelis will have nothing to fear from their government when they return home, and will not be forced to make a statement denying that any cooperation took place.