Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Israel: Notorious defender accused of abuse dies

JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a prominent ultra-Orthodox Israeli who founded a volunteer paramedic service until his reputation collapsed over a series of sexual abuse allegations, has died. He was 62 years old.

Meshi-Zahav was hospitalized last year after a suicide attempt as reports of sexual abuse multiplied after being awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the country’s highest civilian award. Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem confirmed his death on Wednesday without giving a reason.

For decades, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav’s face was one of the most recognizable in Israel. He was highly respected for founding an ultra-Orthodox rescue group that did not differentiate between religious and secular Israelis and cared for the victims of Palestinian attacks.

He founded Zaka in 1995, six years after providing first aid to the victims of the Palestinian bus attack that killed 16 near Jerusalem. Volunteers from his organization help identify victims of disasters and suicide attacks and collect their remains for burial. The group expanded to include paramedics and was widely recognized in Israel.

But when it was announced in March 2021 that he would receive the Israel Prize, accusers came forward to allege that Meshi-Zahav committed horrific acts of sexual abuse against men, women and children for decades, and over- The Orthodox community protected him. wall of silence

In the midst of the scandal, Meshi-Zahav denies the allegations, resigns from Zaka and is denied the Israel Prize. The organization he founded declared itself “shocked and stunned” and said the allegations against Meshi-Zahav create “deep hatred, scandal and hatred, which are light years away from the values ​​that characterize the organization.”

A month later, it emerged that he had attempted suicide at his apartment in Jerusalem and remained hospitalized until his death on Wednesday. Then the Israeli press reported that he had attempted to hang himself.

Nation World News Desk
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