They’re known as “the team that sleeps with the dead” – a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish forensic workers who have matched body parts to identities after countless scenes of carnage in Israel.
Now in Thailand, they describe the aftermath of the tsunami as a disaster of biblical proportions.
Members of the rescue services group Zaka came with Israeli dental, fingerprint, and DNA experts to southern Thailand to help find and identify missing Israelis, but they have ended up working on as many victims as they can, of all nationalities. They toil nearly 24 hours a day at Buddhist pagodas transformed into morgues.
Because they eat only kosher food, their diet has consisted of only coconuts and lychees, except when a Jewish group brought them bread and tuna.
They also marked the Jewish Sabbath with a traditional meal at sundown on Friday. “The tablecloth was a body bag. Around the table, were victims’ families and members of the Israeli team, and the subject of conversation was corpses,” said team leader Yehuda Meshi-Zahav.
They sang a few Sabbath songs, “and then we had to finish up and go back to work,” which, he said, is allowed because Sabbath laws are suspended for their work.