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Police to assessment intercourse abuse fees in opposition to ZAKA founder, with many circumstances too previous

The police are supposed to start investigating allegations of sexual assault and mistreatment by the co-founder and chairman of the ZAKA’s voluntary emergency aid group on Sunday, but according to a television report on Saturday they must find a workable case within the limitation period.

In order to initiate proceedings against Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, police will focus on finding complainants from the past decade, as cases beyond that period are considered “cold cases,” Channel 12 reported.

Meshi-Zahav was charged with sexual assault, rape and ill-treatment by six people in a report in the Haaretz daily on Thursday, with likely many more cases to follow.

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The allegations against Meshi-Zahav were made by both men and women, some of whom were minors at the time of the alleged events.

Police believe they can build a case with one of the alleged victims, who says she was raped at a bed and breakfast in Jerusalem about 10 years ago.

The then 20-year-old woman at the time refused to file a complaint and the investigation was closed because her existence was not made public. She now lives overseas and the police want to speak to her, Channel 12 reported.

Illustrative: A ZAKA van and volunteers at the accident site in Beit Shemesh, January 18, 2018. (Yaakov Lederman / Flash90)

The other cases reported by Haaretz go back 20 to 40 years and are not acceptable after the limitation period.

Magen for Jewish Communities, a nonprofit committed to helping survivors of sexual abuse, has announced that six cases are known, one of alleged rape, but all of which are too long ago to be used.

Meshi-Zahav is a prominent figure in the ultra-Orthodox community, with ZAKA making up a large part of the Israeli emergency services at home and abroad.

The original Haaretz report said Meshi-Zahav used his status, power, money, and even the organization he heads to commit multiple sexual assaults.

One alleged victim said he forcibly stripped and raped her after offering financial help. The woman said that when Meshi-Zahav forced himself on her, he threatened: “If you speak, you will be run over by a ZAKA jeep.”

Another said Meshi-Zahav abused him repeatedly as a teenager and only realized years later that he was his “escort, a prostitute in the truest sense of the word,” he told Haaretz.

According to the report, several other women testified that he masturbated and sexually touched them in front of them.

Meshi-Zahav denied the allegations and told the newspaper that the allegations were “unfounded” and would “cause irreversible damage” to his good name.

Of the six reported allegations, the earliest was in 1983 and the latest in 2011. The report added that many residents of several ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem were aware of Meshi-Zahav’s actions but did not say anything or report him to the authorities.

Earlier this month, Meshi-Zahav was named the winner of the Israel Lifetime Achievement Prize for his contributions to Israeli society. Education Minister Yoav Gallant announced that the award for his decades of work in ZAKA would go to Meshi-Zahav.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, co-founder of ZAKA, speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Meshi-Zahav announced on Friday that he was stepping down from his role in the organization and also giving up the prestigious Israel Prize.

Meshi-Zahav also made headlines in January when his parents both died of COVID-19 from another cause within days and less than a month of his younger brother’s death.

He was a vocal critic of some ultra-Orthodox leaders during the pandemic when some prominent community figures downplayed the virus, including in an October interview with The Times of Israel.

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