The bottom line is that we are ZAKA volunteers.
We have the capacity to deal with difficult scenes.
We are accustomed to the experience of handling the dead and the murdered.
We deeply absorb the grief and the pain.
We take in the tragedy in which we find ourselves.
We feel the crazy horror that surrounds us.
We live the grim honor of handling fatalities.

In the last three years, we have found ourselves at the sites of countless terrorist attacks. The ground is burning. Blood has been spilled. Knife-stabbing and car-ramming incidents in every corner of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Another victim stabbed, another woman murdered, another body, another pool of blood. We understand that this is our routine, it’s our life—reality explodes in our faces once again. Every attack brings bad news and tragedy with the number of dead and injured.

We will always be there to “save those who can be saved and honor those who cannot.”

I have never publically shared my feelings with the world, telling and explaining what the ZAKA volunteers go through while handling the bodies of the murdered time and time again. And this we do alongside routine traffic accidents, murders, suicides, fires and other engagements with the Angel of Death that require our assistance.

The attack at Armon Hanatziv took from me what no other cruel attack has been able to—not the four people murdered in the Har Nof attack (Nov. 18, 2014); not the shooting at Damascus Gate (Sept. 16, 2016), where an Israeli border-police officer was killed; and not the dozens and dozens of other terrorist incidents, which have almost become commonplace.

I was at a work meeting when I heard the report over the ZAKA radio. Volunteers are dispatched to the scene. I note that I’m not the closest one, and that it’s probably another “routine” stabbing or car-ramming attack with two or three casualties. I decide not to go.

Half a significant minute passes . . .

Another report comes over the radio: “A mass casualty incident! A mass casualty incident! A mass casualty incident in the Armon Hanatziv area!”

I grab my equipment while putting on my ZAKA jacket, and race towards a terrible and bloody scene for the umpteenth time (who can even count them anymore?).

I arrive as the last of the injured is being evacuated into the ambulance, crying hysterically and with a broken leg. No injured people remain on the ground.

The chaos subsides, emergency forces start to leave the scene, and we are left with the silence of death.

On the green grass, with the golden rays of the sun on a winter’s day in Jerusalem, lie four bodies scattered around the wheels of the truck, their holy blood seeping into the ground.

Four young people, whose lives were cut short.
Four more broken families, who have lost children, sisters and brothers.
Four murdered souls, holy and pure.
Four worlds that were once full of life, now stopped.

I scan the scene and assess the nature of our work, the holy work of chesed shel emet (“true kindness”), stepping between the medical equipment that was supposed to bring life to the wounded and the victims’ personal belongings. We are divided into teams and start to work.

I was alongside a close friend. As we are assisting the forensics officer and army representative in identifying the body of a young officer, we hear the victim’s phone start to ring.

On the screen: “Dad is calling, Dad is calling, Dad is calling, Dad is calling.”

We hold the phone, frozen.

With all of our experience in handling disasters, we suddenly fail to function.

Dear pure and holy one, heaven-bound, your father is looking for you on the phone and calling endlessly. He still does not know that your Father in Heaven has accepted you with a loving embrace.

You died in the sanctification of the name of G‑d.

May your memories be a blessing!

A ZAKA volunteer