Body of rabbi in Mexico pulled from earthquake rubble
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Body of rabbi in Mexico pulled from earthquake rubble

Israeli rescuers searching for survivors in a building flattened by an earthquake in Mexico City, Sept. 21, 2017. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Volunteers from Israel’s Zaka search-and-rescue organization pulled the body of a local rabbi from an office building that collapsed in a massive earthquake that hit Mexico.

Rabbi Haim Ashkenazi had been working in the office building when the 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Sept. 19, rocking Mexico City and causing hundreds of buildings to collapse.

He served as the rabbi of the Kehillat Magen David synagogue and was an in-law of Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, chief rabbi of the Magen David Jewish community of Mexico.

The Zaka volunteers in Mexico have been working with the Mexican Jewish rescue and recovery organization Cadena since Sept. 19, including throughout Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat, in accordance with Tawil’s rulings.

The volunteers were working Saturday when a magnitude 6.2 aftershock hit the area. More than 300 people have been killed since the first earthquake struck. Two weeks earlier, on Sept. 7, at least 96 people died in an 8.1 magnitude earthquake that struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, hitting the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

A 71-member delegation of Israeli soldiers arrived in Mexico on Thursday, including a search-and-rescue team and engineers who will help assess the structural integrity of buildings affected by the earthquake. The chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces gave the group permission to travel on Rosh Hashanah.

The delegation is scheduled to return to Israel on Sept. 29, the eve of Yom Kippur.

As of Sunday morning, the IDF delegation had surveyed 59 buildings, according to the army. On Friday, the residents of a Mexican town took to the streets to applaud the rescue team. The moment was caught on video and aired on Israel’s Channel 2.

Two Israeli aid organizations — IsraAID and iAid — also sent delegations to Mexico to assist in search and rescue. iAid, which is funded by Cycura Inc. and The Ted Arison Family Foundation, sent a 15-member team, which has helped to locate the bodies of several people in a school and a residential building.

Meanwhile, 25 former Israeli soldiers who are volunteering at a school in Mexico City teaching English, math and other subjects evacuated 460 students at the school following the first earthquake and are credited with saving their lives, Ynet reported. The ex-soldiers are volunteering through the Heros for Life NGO.