ZAKA founder now 'a vegetable,' friend says

'In the past 5 years, he's been perfectly righteous. A person is allowed to repent,' says Rabbi Aharon Baumel, friend of ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.

103FM ,

Yehdua Meshi-Zahav
Yehdua Meshi-Zahav
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90     

Rabbi Aharon Baumel, a friend of ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, spoke about his friend's attempt to end his life after claims that he was a sexual predator went public.

In an interview with 103 FM Radio, Rabbi Baumel said, "I visit him, he's unconscious, poor Yehuda is a vegetable. That's what they say, and that's the situation, and it really hurts my heart."

"He hasn't been forgotten," Rabbi Baumel added. "People are always coming. Even on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) I came to ask him forgiveness, with a quorum of ten. The public is constantly asking. He's a public figure who was loved, we can't degrade Yehuda Meshi-Zahav in every issue, or about the fact that he left the ZAKA organization, which is constantly providing help."

About Meshi-Zahav's horrific actions, Rabbi Baumel said, "I was careful to warn the public. In the past five years he's been perfectly righteous. They're talking about stories that happened thirty or forty years ago. A person can repent. People tell me that they don't want [him] in the earth or in heaven. The public has become afraid, people understand that there is judgement and there is a judge, and there's a fear of committing crimes."

In April, Meshi-Zahav attempted to end his life, less than one day before Channel 12 published an inquiry on him on its "Uvda" program.

In March, Meshi-Zahav, was selected for the Israel Prize in the field of Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State award. Later that month, he was accused of sexual misconduct, and stepped down from his position as ZAKA's leader.

In January this year, Meshi-Zahav lost both his parents to coronavirus.

Police opened an investigation against Meshi-Zahav, after allegations came to light in a report published by Haaretz. In that report, six accusers -both male and female - claimed Meshi-Zahav sexually exploited or assaulted them as far back as the 1980s.

Some of the accusers were minors at the time of the alleged assaults, others were adults.