Israel paramedic group founder mired in sex abuse scandal dies

29 June 2022, 09:44

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. Picture: PA

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav was a prominent member of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community who founded a volunteer paramedic service.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a prominent member of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community who founded a volunteer paramedic service before his reputation came crashing down in a series of sexual abuse allegations, has died at the age of 62.

Mr Meshi-Zahav was admitted to hospital last year following a suicide attempt as accusers came forward to allege years of sexual abuse after he was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the country’s highest civilian honour.

Jerusalem’s Herzog Medical Centre confirmed his death on Wednesday, but did not give a cause.

For decades, Mr Meshi-Zahav was one of Israel’s most recognisable faces, widely respected for founding an ultra-Orthodox rescue service that bridged the divide between religious and secular Israelis and cared for the victims of Palestinian attacks.

He formed Zaka in 1995, six years after he provided first aid to victims of a deadly Palestinian bus attack that killed 16 people near Jerusalem.

His organisation’s volunteers helped identify the victims of disasters and suicide bombings and collect their remains for a Jewish burial. The group expanded to include first response paramedics and broad recognition in Israel.

But after the announcement in March 2021 that he was to receive the Israel Prize, his accusers came forward, saying he had committed horrendous acts of sexual abuse of men, women and children over several decades, and that the ultra-Orthodox community shielded him with a wall of silence.

Mr Meshi-Zahav denied the allegations, stepped down as head of Zaka, and turned down the Israel Prize in the midst of a widening scandal.

The organisation he founded expressed “shock and astonishment”, saying the allegations against him “arouse deep abhorrence, shock and disgust, light years away from the values that characterise the organisation”.

A month later he reportedly attempted suicide in his Jerusalem apartment and was admitted to hospital, where he remained until his death on Wednesday. Israeli media reported at the time that he had tried to hang himself.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Britney Spears

Britney Spears’ ex-husband convicted after trying to crash wedding

Trump FBI

FBI seized ‘top secret’ documents from Trump’s home

Montenegro Shooting

Gunman in Montenegro kills 10 before being shot dead by passerby

Author Salman Rushdie

Author Salman Rushdie attacked on lecture stage in New York

Polluted River

‘Huge’ amounts of chemical waste dumped into river in Poland

Polio NYC

Polio detected in NYC’s sewage, suggesting virus circulating

Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage

Police identify suspect after Salman Rushdie stabbed in the neck and abdomen while on stage at New York event

Europe Drought

European drought dries up rivers and shrivels crops

Johnson Johnson-Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson to end sales of baby powder with talc globally next year

Huge fires have been ravaging parts of southern France

Seven European countries send help to battle ‘monster’ wildfire ravaging southern France

Firefighters tackling a wildfire near Saint-Magne, south of Bordeaux, south-western France (SDIS 33 via AP)

European firefighters join battle to stop French wildfires

South Korea UN

UN chief affirms support for denuclearised North Korea

South Korea Samsung

South Korea to pardon Samsung heir following corruption scandal

Hawaii Wildfire

Large wildfire burning amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

Getty Museum in LA to return illegally exported art to Italy

FBI Office Threat

Suspect who tried to breach FBI office dies in stand-off