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      Israel, Iran Work Together in Japan

      Search teams from Israel and Iran come together in the devastated Japanese town of Kamashi.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 4/3/2011, 5:27 PM / Last Update: 4/3/2011, 11:39 PM

      IDF Spokesman's Unit

      Search teams from Israel and Iran have formed an unlikely partnership in the city of Kamashi, in Japan. Both teams are assisting Japan in the search for, and identification of, bodies of tsunami victims. See photos here.

      The teams met in Kamashi, a port city in northeastern Japan that was devastated by the recent earthquake and tsunami in the country. At least 600 people were killed, and many more are missing.

      When the team of ZAKA members from Israel met their Iranian counterparts, “We exchanged greetings. We decided that we have the same mission, no matter what is happening with our governments,” said ZAKA head Yehudah Meshi-Zahav, who spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service about the organization's mission in Japan.

      The 12 members of the ZAKA crew worked alongside the Iranians, and when the teams set up camp, both flew their flags, putting the Israeli and Iranian national symbols side by side.

      Meshi-Zahav described the task. “There's a lot of physical work. We strip the buildings, sometimes we use heavy machinery,” he explained. The team gets reports from Japanese authorities about the missing, then goes from building to building looking for bodies."

      “We are not talking about rescuing the living, but about locating bodies and giving them a burial, in order to bring some relief to the bereaved families,” he added.

      As a United Nations-recognized search and rescue organization, ZAKA tries to be on the scene of mass-casualty disasters to provide assistance, Meshi-Zahav said. ZAKA benefits from the help it gives as well, he said. “We learn how to respond to disasters of this scale, in case, G-d forbid, one were to happen to us.”

      Israel benefits as well, he added. “There are people here who never heard of Israel before, or who heard of Israel and when they see us, come to learn more. This is a tremendous kiddush Hashem [sanctification of G-d's name]... We show Israel's good side.”

      ZAKA began in 1989 as a simple civilian effort, led by then-yeshiva student Meshi-Zahav, to collect human remains for burial following terrorist attacks. It has since expanded to become an international search and rescue team. ZAKA has been at the scene to assist following flooding in New Orleans and an earthquake in Haiti, and in 2009 expanded its international team.