Accused of sexual abuse, beleaguered founder of emergency rescue group attempts suicide

Yehuda Meshi Zahav resigned as head of the Zaka rescue unit in critical condition before hanging himself.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Disgraced by multiple allegations of sexual abuse, the co-founder and former head of the ZAKA volunteer emergency response organization, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, was rushed to hospital Thursday in critical condition after apparently trying to commit suicide by hanging himself, Israel Hayom reported.

Meshi-Zahav, 61, resigned from ZAKA last month after press reports alleged he had for decades carried out sexual assaults on people of different ages, including minors.

His son apparently found him hanging in his home in Givat Ze’ev, just north of Jerusalem, and called emergency services who performed CPR.

Shortly after being taken away by ambulance, a neighbor spoke to reporters and said he had tried to support Meshi-Zahav and keep him from killing himself.

“I was always talking to him and telling him, ‘Yehuda, you are not committing suicide,'” said a fellow ultra-Orthodox resident of the religious neighborhood. “You are not going to give them that gift.”

Although Meshi-Zahav denied the press reports, the neighbor told reporters that he had admitted to him “there are things that are not in control of a man,” adding, “God help him.”

The suicide attempt came ahead of an investigative news documentary on Meshi-Zahav that was scheduled to be shown by Channel 12 News Thursday evening, detailing the attempts by ultra-Orthodox (haredi) society to sweep the sexual harassment allegations under the rug.

Channel 12 had advertised the investigative report on the show “Uvda” (or “Fact”).

The 45-second video trailer posted on the Uvda twitter account included the headline, “The police knew, there were people who complained, but nobody did anything,” and “They knew about it in the neighborhood.”

Channel 12 News issued a statement saying that given recent developments, its editors “will debate whether to air the show at this time,” Israel Hayom reported.

A neighbor told the Walla news site that Meshi-Zahav was “very concerned” about the show and “it was going to be the end of him.”

A spokesman for Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem described his condition as critical, saying “there are signs of some stabilization in his condition but there is still an immediate danger to his life.”