United Hatzalah en route to Pittsburgh, ZAKA volunteers waiting to enter Tree of Life Synagogue

October 29, 2018 by Ilanit Chernick - TPS
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As world Jewry reels following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, United Hatzalah volunteers from Israel are on their way to the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill to help counsel witnesses and family members of those killed in the attack.

Photo: United Hatzalah on 28 October, 2018

On Saturday, during prayer services, a 46-year-old gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire on the congregants, killing 11 people and injuring six others. The shooting has been deemed the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

United Hatzalah, in cooperation with the Ministry of Diaspora and the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, hopes to aid the community and victims of the shooting attack that took place.

“The team is comprised of members of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit and will assist the families of those who were killed in the attack as well as the injured and the rest of the community by providing psychological and emotional stabilization and treatment to those who need it,” spokesman for United Hatzalah Raphael Poch said.

Director of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Miriam Ballin, who is heading up the team said, they “are heading to Pittsburgh in order to treat those who witnessed the attack and anyone else from the community feels the need for our assistance.

“We will be utilizing techniques and tools that we have developed here in Israel and have proven to be highly successful in assisting those who have suffered from similar incidents here,” she explained. “Additionally, we hope that our work will give the community a sense of solidarity on behalf of the people of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the international unit of Israel’s emergency response unit ZAKA, says it has not yet been allowed into the synagogue to remove the bodies of the victims.

ZAKA Commander in Pittsburgh Rabbi Elisar Admon told Army Radio on Sunday morning that the Pittsburgh police and FBI had not yet given permission to remove the bodies for burial.

“We are trying to work with the Pittsburgh police, but it is difficult because they don’t understand our needs,” he said.

Admon said that this was the first terror attack of its kind in the region. “We are in shock…The situation will change now, but we will not be broken, we are the Jewish people and we will continue to live.”

He explained that Shabbat had been a particularly difficult time, people did not know what to do. “My own children are traumatized by what happened”.

Admon added that Saturday’s mass shooting was reminiscent of the 2008 Mercaz HaRav terrorist attack in Jerusalem in which an Arab from East Jerusalem, entered the yeshiva with a gun and began firing indiscriminately, killing eight students and wounding 15 others.

In a statement, ZAKA Search and Rescue USA is waiting in the field for permission to enter the site.

“We grieve together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and pray for the full and speedy recovery of the wounded,” said ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. “ZAKA Search and Rescue USA volunteers are on the ground, waiting to enter and treat the bodies of the murdered, which are still where they fell. Our volunteers will also work with the community to offer assistance in all matters related to this tragic and horrific attack.”

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